Back with a quick update from the field from the CIMB Classic. Here’s part two of my notes from the field.
A mini-controversy broke out yesterday due to this tweet. It’s unsurprising with the way twitter works, but for some reason, a big deal was made out of this:
Every player in the field warning back up. Not even close to enough spots. Dudes are just making their own spots on random holes on the East pic.twitter.com/pUaI6hFR69
— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) October 13, 2017
Let me explain a few things here. First of all, outside of the United States, driving ranges at courses aren’t a 100% guarantee. When the Open Championship goes to St. Andrews, they use the first hole at the Jubilee course for the range. At the Irish Open this summer, they used a hole from the other course at Portstewart. It’s not uncommon to carve out some space somewhere on the property for pros to hone their craft. And it’s a necessity. If you have a golf tournament that does not have a place for players to hit balls, you do not have a golf tournament.
Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia will take place on the East Course at TPC Kuala Lumpur in two weeks. To accommodate the players for the CIMB Classic, the third tee box on the East Course has been extended width wise to create enough space for the players to hit up the third fairway. This has zero effect on the actual playing of the 3rd hole for the LPGA, as it’s a teeing area, and there’s more than enough space to find somewhere to play from. It’s worth pointing out that this strategy has also been consistent with previous years, including last year where the LPGA event was played in the week directly after the CIMB Classic.
On Friday, with every single player in the field on the course, the horn blew and play stopped for several hours. When it was time to resume, all 78 players had a short window of time to warm up. With only about 26 spots on that 3rd tee, practice areas were extended to the very end of the 4th fairway. About ten guys hit from here, which is again an area that is highly unlikely to be played from during the event. Finally the last few scraps of guys went down in front of the 2nd green and hit some balls down that fairway. A small amount of turf was dug up in the approximately 10 minutes that guys were hitting.
The funniest part to me was Jonathan Vegas going into he bunker to hit, and Sunn Kang hitting woods from that fringe directly over his head. It was mayhem! I tweeted those pictures out just to point the hilarity in it all, and even the players passing by commented light heartedly about how crazy it was. It’s all part of the experience of playing a golf tournament on the other side of the world.
Well, a few LPGA players and caddies did not take kindly to it, and it even turned into a story on the Golf Channel website.
— Marina Alex (@Marina_Deee) October 13, 2017
— Jessica Korda (@Thejessicakorda) October 13, 2017
— Duncan French (@Teamfrench23) October 13, 2017
Ladies, I can most definitely agree that I could have explained it better in my tweet. But 140 characters is 140 characters.
The most important thing to note is, almost assuredly, the women will be playing ball in hand when they’re here in two weeks. The fairways out here are incredibly soft, and balls have been plugging in them all week. The guys have played it up from the moment they arrived. So even if an LPGA player’s ball was to end up in one of these divots from the TOUR guys, they get to pick it up, clean it, and move it to a perfectly groomed place in the fairway. In addition, the grounds crew here has a week in between to repair any “damage” made to any of the surfaces.
While I recognize the frustrations that must come with feeling like you’re always playing second fiddle to the men’s TOUR, I strongly believe this whole thing is a lot to do about nothing. Billy Kratzert’s explanation on Golf Channel was perfect (see embedded video below). If the LPGA players show up in two weeks and are disappointed with the condition of the course, I’ll be stunned. Both courses look absolutely immaculate, and this situation was simply unavoidable.
- The crowd came to life a bit here on Saturday. The weekend has brought fans out at a much greater number, particularly following Hideki Matsuyama. Consistent with what I’ve heard about golf in China and other Asian countries, culturally it is perhaps a bit unusual to take work off to watch golf during the week. The difference from Friday to Saturday was astounding, and the fine folks of Kuala Lumpur braved the humidity to see some golf.
- Followed the KFS/Rafa/Hideki group for nine holes before getting discouraged with the pace. 2:45 to get around the front, despite RCB going out in 30, Hideki out in 31, and KFS out in 34. Normally weekends make for such better viewing because twosomes go sooooo much faster. But with the daily threat of afternoon rain, threesomes off two tees is required. The guys still get done hilariously early in the day, which is great, but it can make for some uncomfortable waits in the sun.
- Xander Schauffele is very impressive. So impressive that I spent a few minutes making sure that I’ve memorized the spelling of his name. We’re going to be using it a lot. He absolutely mashes his long irons, drives it straight, and controls his distances exquisitely. And he can roll it. Seems like a good combo.