Asians Laying Foundation For Dominance
That is the English translation of what Futures Golf Tour member Kathy Choi-Rogers says is the driving force behind Korean players in womens golf. Thats how they approach the game every single time they set foot on the tee.
When Koreans are playing together, there is so much pressure, said Choi-Rogers, born in Seoul, Korea and now a resident of Huntington Beach, Calif. Its life or death. You have to beat everybody.
Choi knows, because she once subscribed to the same philosophy. Its what propelled her to a third-place finish in the 1996 NCAA Womens Golf Championship while playing for UCLA. Its that East/West conflict that occasionally resurfaces during Futures Tour competitions.
I used to feel like that, but now Im so relaxed, said Choi-Rogers, who married an American and settled in Southern California. Now, I think of golf like a game rather than a way of life.
But that warrior mentality has changed the womens game. It has raised the bar and in some cases, has left Westerners behind. Four of the top-five players on the current Futures Tour money list are natives of South Korea. Six of the top 10 are from Asia, calling Korea, India and the Republic of China home. Since 1999, when the Futures Tour began awarding LPGA Tour cards to its top players, six of 17 card winners have been either Asian or Asian-American. Nine of those 17 have been international players.
Which begs the question: Why are Asians so dominant in golf?
I think it definitely has a lot to do with work ethic, said Natalie Wong, a Chinese-American from Los Angeles. Were taught from a very young age that working hard equals success.
Wong observed that Korean players on the Futures Tour often play nine holes in a practice round and come back to the practice tee to work on their swings or particular shots, then go back out on the course and play nine more holes.
Most of us just play our practice rounds and then we can go do what we want, said Wong, who played collegiately at Yale University. Their approach is completely different. I think they practice more.
Jimin Kang, currently leading the Futures Tour money list, agrees that Koreans generally practice more than other players. Its a culture thing, said Kang, a native of Seoul, Korea, who played her college golf at Arizona State University. Koreans are very hard workers.
Its impossible to argue that point and its evident that either personal desire or parental pressure - or both - make Asian players fixtures on the practice areas of both the LPGA Tour and Futures Golf Tour. The correlation between time spent in practice and success in tournament competition is almost predictable.
I got here Monday afternoon and 15 Korean players were already out here, said Choi-Rogers of the Tours 54-hole tournament in Albuquerque, N.M., played Friday through Sunday. And I can tell you that the two weeks we have off between now and the next tournament, the Koreans will go on to Indiana and will practice and play there for two weeks before the rest of us arrive. They dont take time off.
They are here for golf, added Reo Kato, a Futures Tour rookie of Tokyo, Japan. I think it is different for Japanese and Koreans. Japanese love golf more because it is status.
Status and success are key ingredients for all of the Asian cultures when it comes to golf, say the players, even though there are fundamental differences in the approach to attaining it. Many Korean golf parents will invest heavily into their daughters game and expect her to perform at a very high level.
Its the fathers dream and the culture dictates that the child is not supposed to argue or go against the wishes of the parent, said Choi-Rogers. The family puts everything into their child. Once the daughter makes it and becomes successful, the status goes back to the parents.
Entire families become involved in the progress of the player, added Wong.
Maybe thats why Asians are so successful in golf, she said. Parents are very involved in your career. True, some players feel pressure, but they also know they have their family behind them.
Teresa Ishiguro, a Japanese-American on the Futures Tour, believes Asian success in womens professional golf has more to do with finances than any other factor. She says the players who have the greatest chance to succeed in golf also have the means to play the game that is cost-prohibitive to many in their homelands.
When the Japanese yen was strong, Ayako Okamoto and Hiromi Kobayashi were playing good golf on the LPGA Tour, said Ishiguro, of Ione, Calif. Its not a race thing. Its about money. If you want to get good, you have to invest money into your game. A lot of the players on our tour go to David Leadbetter and they can afford to do things others cant do.
But Ishiguro, who played college golf at the University of Nevada, also added that international players combine financial means, discipline and cultural insulation to their advantage on the professional levels.
Many of them have very limited English, she said. So they stay in their shells and are more focused on their golf than in socializing.
There is no clear answer to why Asians excel so remarkably in professional womens golf. Certainly, there are many variables. But with the continued success of future World Golf Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak on the LPGA Tour, the highly publicized ascent of rising amateur star Michelle Wie, and the recent win by mainland Chinas Hong Mei Yang on the Futures Golf Tour, the doors most definitely will continue to swing wide open to all of Asia as the top eastern players travel to the west to test their skills against top global fields.
America is where the best women golfers come to play. It is where the best continue to develop and it is where the most talented and dedicated players reap the richest rewards. When it comes to life or death in a game, for some, the simple option is to win.
Editors Note: Lisa D. Mickey is the director of communications for the Futures Golf Tour and a longtime member of the national golf media. For more information, about the Futures Tour, contact email@example.com or visit futurestour.com.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.
The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.
It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.
"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."
Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.
Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.
"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."