How a short-hitting major champ beat the three longest players on Tour
HOUSTON — Fans were not allowed on site at the U.S. Women’s Open this week — yet another element of our “new normal” that has emerged in 2020 — but that didn’t stop one group from commanding a modest gallery.
As the long-bombing trio of Maria Fassi, Bianca Pagdanganan and Anne van Dam worked their way around the two courses at Champions Golf Club, a healthy contingent of media members, family and volunteers followed along.
The intrigue is understandable — power is captivating. And boy, do they have some serious power. Each of the three averaged over 280 yards per drive off the tee this year, and on a typically firm U.S. Open layout, they got well more distance than that throughout their first two rounds.
In a year when Bryson DeChambeau has made power all the rage in the sport, getting a chance to see jaw-dropping drives is not one many people would pass up. But as the trio bomb-and-gouged their way around the property, the group ahead of them held some intrigue of its own.
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Enter seven-time major champion Inbee Park. The 32-year-old was in one of the other feature groupings on the course, but hardly for the reason of her long-bombing competitors.
Park averages a meager 239 yards per drive off the tee — a far cry from the 285 yards averaged by Pagdanganan. But that distance disadvantage doesn’t bother her too much.
“Most of the girls I play with now everyday are pretty much longer than me, so I really don’t mind it,” Park said. “It’s a matter of who’s hitting second shots closer and who’s holing the putts.”
Through two rounds in Houston — and for much of her career — Park has done that well. Despite some subpar play (by her standards, at least), Park is one over for the championship, good for T29.
While her competitors in the group behind sent rockets off the face with every swing, Park’s languid motion sent the ball fluttering into the air — well behind where the bombers ended up — but more often than not in the fairway.
All three of the long hitters missed the cut. Park plodded along without her best stuff to keep herself in the mix. And with a soggy moving day ahead that should allow her longer clubs to be received more generously, she has a chance to put herself into position to make a charge for major No. 8 come Sunday.
“Hopefully my putter turns on and I can get a few to drop,” Park said. “That’d be nice.”
No matter the result, Park continues to contend and shines as the antithesis to the analytics-driven long-ball craze. She might not have much power, but she does know her game.
“You just have to concentrate on what you do best,” Park said. “Just work with what you have.”