The golf world was watching in fascination as the British Open was drawing to a close, with Tiger Woods still “lurking” within striking distance, and several younger players coming on strong. But as we discussed on Thursday there was some unique excitement taking place at the Barbasol Championship, where LPGA star Brittany Lincicome was teeing off against the men. Unfortunately for her, when the end of Friday’s round came along, Lincicome didn’t make the cut to play on into the weekend. In fact, it wasn’t even close. (USA Today)
Despite shooting 1-under-par 71 in a strong second round Saturday, Lincicome finished 36 holes in 5-over par 149 and failed to make the cut for the tournament’s third round.
“It was cool just to be inside the ropes with the guys, and it’s been a dream come true playing in this event,” Lincicome said. ” A lot of people don’t realize how good (LPGA golfers) are.”
As she prepared to make history this week as only the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, Lincicome received advice from a few of the LPGA greats who had walked the path before her.
Annika Sorenstam told her to stay off social media and watch a movie to relax the night before the tournament; instead, Lincicome scrolled Twitter after eating dinner with her family.
Lincicome did have a fairly solid second round, going one under par thanks to an incredible fairway shot for an eagle on the 17th. But that didn’t make up for her six over par performance on Thursday. And truth be told, even if she had managed to shoot even par on Thursday she would have still missed the cut. She finished the second round at five over par total while the cut fell at two under. That left her a full seven shots behind those who would go on to play on Saturday. She did manage to beat three of the more than 160 male players who completed both rounds. (Technically she also “beat” eight other players who didn’t finish both of the first two rounds.)
In other words, when measured in an unbiased fashion against the rest of the field, that was simply an awful performance. The real question is… why? Lincicome is at the top of her game with multiple LPGA championships under her belt. She’s arguably one of the best women in the game right now. I’ll grant you that some jitters over all the media attention could definitely have been a factor on the first day, but that goes for anyone who steps up to the tee in the PGA to a certain extent.
How did she finish that close to the absolute bottom of a field where basically every decently ranked male player was in Europe playing at the British Open? The answer, as in so many things, comes down to the fact that men are built differently than women. This isn’t a real mystery like why a woman has never won the world chess championships. (And I still have zero explanation for that one.) The men are, on average, taller, with a longer swing length. They develop upper body muscle mass faster and more effectively than women. Their hips rotate differently than women’s, lending to a more full swing. Put all of that together and they’re just going to put the ball further down the fairway, setting themselves up with easier approach shots. (That matters a lot because your average LPGA course is around 6,600 yards total while PGA courses go as long as 7,700 yards. The Masters course at Augusta is 7,435.)
That means that Lincicome could have the best short game going but still be struggling to get a decent shot at a birdie on virtually every hole. Does that mean that LPGA players shouldn’t be allowed to play in PGA tournaments? No. As I said on Thursday, if they can qualify for a spot they should be given a chance. And sponsor invitations (such as the one Lincicome was offered here) are an accepted part of the league rules and men sometimes benefit from them also, so that’s just fine.
But this is one more reminder that we don’t need to pretend that the two genders are somehow interchangeable. Men and women are different in frequently wonderful (or befuddling) ways. When it comes to physical competition we shouldn’t put so much pressure on women to prove they are the same as men. But at least in the case of golf, we should let them try if they wish to.