Does Yani Tseng Deserve a Shot at PGA Tour Glory?

Yani Tseng has had a pretty good year. Eleven victories worldwide: seven on the LPGA Tour, including two majors, and an incredible advert for women’s golf (which, inexplicably, continues to struggle, given the phenomenal strength of the ladies game at the moment). It is easy to understand why her performance has led to calls for a PGA Tour appearance, and even easier to understand why the Puerto Rico Open, arguably the weakest tournament on the PGA Tour schedule, (and surely one that would not exist without the World Golf Championships) jumped on the bandwagon and offered a sponsor’s exemption to the young Taiwanese sensation. Will Yani Tseng be the best female golfer of all time? Quite possibly. Should this translate into a PGA Tour appearance? No. There are many arguments for both sides, but the reality is that, unless wholesale changes are made, and the nature of the game is addressed, it is something that simply shouldn’t happen. The problem is that aforementioned changes are implausible, and will never come to fruition.  It isn’t that Tseng doesn’t deserve a chance, but it paves the way for other women to play, leaving two options; the acceptance of two-way movement between the PGA and LPGA Tour’s, or the creation of a mixed golf tour. Neither is workable, and neither will happen. If Tseng continues to get sponsor’s exemptions, the PGA Tour are going to have to step in, and either ban the practice or insist on exemptions for other women.

Firstly, both points of view need to be considered, and we must examine why women are offered the chance to play on the PGA Tour. Does it come down to ability to compete, or intrigue, monetary gain and artificial promotion of a tournament? Exemptions offered on such grounds should be outlawed. Marketing of players already on the tour falls into an entirely different category, but bringing in someone from outside, without golfing reasons taking precedent, is not something we should be encouraging. It is debatable as to whether Tseng can compete at this level, but is that the sponsors’ main concern?

Those that say Tseng simply can’t compete on the PGA Tour need to look at the statistics, and as far as I’m concerned, it isn’t a legitimate argument. Her average driving distance is 269.1 yards, only .6 of a yard shorter than Brian Gay, someone who has won on the PGA Tour. Her putting, short game and iron play are exemplary, and those that naively dismiss her chances because women aren’t as powerful as men need to reassess their wholly inadequate and stereotypical point of view. Her short game would obviously be put under strenuous pressure, but we can’t sit here and say that it would crumble.  With time and practice, a victory for Tseng is just about within the realms of possibility. Time and practice on the men’s tour are unattainable, either way you look at it. If she accepts an exemption, and misses the cut, she won’t be afforded another. If she makes the cut and does well, more offers will pour in, and officials will have to step in and call for potentially groundbreaking reassessment.  She won’t be able to hone her skills on the man’s tour, and if that is the case, is it right to take a spot away from a male who has qualified; someone that has a feasible chance of winning? For me, this is one of the most exciting things about men’s golf. Anyone, on their day or week, has a legitimate chance of victory. Just look at what college players have achieved this year.  Relying on a sponsor’s exemption and, going by history, playing only the one tournament on the PGA Tour means two things: the practice of playing golf is second to media hullabaloo, in itself wrong, and perhaps more importantly, she has absolutely no chance of winning. Thus, her appearance, or the appearance of any female on the PGA Tour, is not for golfing reasons, and as such, must be prohibited.

The Michelle Wie appearance was downright ridiculous, and she had even less chance of winning than Tseng. But again, that is missing the point. It comes down to social experimentation, which in turn shows a lack of respect for the sport. Allowing women to legitimately qualify for events is another matter. It has happened before, in the case of Isabelle Beisiegel, and will happen again. If this continues, the roots of a nascent, unisexual tour will grow and grow. If a woman does one day manage to qualify for a PGA Tour event, how will the struggling LPA cope with the inevitable flocking of its top stars? What are the implications of such an eventuality for the PGA Tour – will it have to disband to make way for a new organisation, given that it will surely be impracticable to maintain, promote and develop the LPGA Tour, the PGA Tour, and a new tour? Will the PGA tour expand to cater for such change, and how will this effect existing sponsorship? Consideration of even the most basic of questions reveal the insurmountable problems caused by women’s attempts to play on the mens tour. I’m not saying they shouldn’t; I just can’t see any possible resolution.

Tseng has some serious thinking to do. Does she want to be remembered primarily for being absolutely dominant on the women’s tour, or for joining the list of women that tried, and failed, to make an impression on the PGA Tour? This assumption of failure is based purely on golfing factors, even before considering the enormous pressure on her shoulders. Trying to prove to yourself that you can compete with men, whilst trying not to disappoint the millions of women and Asians that are willing you to succeed, would have an effect on anyone.  As said in the proverbs, if you don’t believe in yourself, you aren’t going to succeed. Does Tseng believe she can challenge first time out, if at all? “I wouldn’t care about the results because I’d just want to enjoy the feeling of playing with guys and learning from them to further improve my skills.” No further analysis required. Why should it only be her that enjoys the feeling of playing with men? There are many parallels between Yani Tseng and Tiger Woods. The difference is that, when Tiger was the best in his field, he wasn’t able to go anywhere for a fresh challenge. Should Tseng be able to?

In terms of what men and women should be able to do in golf, where do we draw the line, if Tseng is allowed to play on the PGA Tour? Officials have set a dangerous precedent by allowing Sorenstam and Wie to participate, and it must be considered a blessing in disguise that neither made a cut. Another huge issue relates to equality. If we allow women to play on the PGA Tour to test themselves against the men, then why shouldn’t a man be able to play on the LPGA Tour to see how he fares against the women? It has to be equal in reverse. Imagine the outcry should it be suggested that Luke Donald play an LPGA event, a Ladies tour event. Impossible. If that is the case, it simply cannot be allowed the other way around. The only fair way to integrate men and women would be by creating a mixed golf tour, a marketing nightmare given the current golfing climate. Furthermore, how would you go about persuading the men to play on this tour? You wouldn’t, plain and simple. We can’t give way to intrigue, as tempting as it is. The same reasoning should preclude her from playing on the Nationwide Tour. It isn’t that I don’t want to see it, it’s that it, contrary to what many may believe, is not in the best interests of the game, and the best interests of the game must outweigh all other factors. That should be the reality. Tseng is yet to appear on the PGA Tour. In the interests of egalitarianism, amongst other things, let’s hope it remains that way.

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5 Comments

  1. No to the freak show, no to the sponsors exemption, yes to letting her qualify or try through the normal means that all men are required to follow for PGA Tour membership. She won’t be able to do it and the discussion ends there. Evaluate on true merit and the problem resolves itself. Thanks!

    • But what happens if she does, somehow, qualify, or if a lady/ladies down the line start qualifying?

      • If they can qualify, then you let them play. The differences in physical strength and capabilities is too great to assume a lady can crack the top 125 exempt list or even survive the PGA Tour Q school qualifying requirements competing against the men from the same set of tees. I would hazard to guess that ladies are free to try and qualify now but none choose to attempt because of the certain outcome.

  2. Andy

    I agree with you. Tseng’s appearance on the PGA Tour would further devalue the ladies tour.

    However, what about a fully co-sanctioned PGA/LPGA event? It happens between different mens tours and would create an interesting spectacle. Ladies could play a course around 10% shorter than the men, which would make it a fair and intriguing competition. A one-off competition would create a healthy media spectacle too.

    • One off competitions and co-sanctioned events are interesting ideas, and as you say, it could prove very popular and ultimately help ratings. What forman would you suggest? Should find the difference between average driving distance of the two tours, and place ladies tees accordingly. I still worry about its effect on the LPGA tour, and what it might lead to. Interesting in theory though.

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