Cristie Kerr thinks that the time could be right for one of the top LPGA professionals to compete in five or six tournaments in a row on the PGA Tour instead of just the odd isolated event. It is, after all, only what Tiger Woods recommended as long ago as 2003 when Annika Sorenstam played in the MasterCard Colonial and shot a 71 ahead of a 74. (Woods’ reasoning, at the time, was that it was not fair to judge anyone on a single performance.)
“I think Tiger was correct,” said Kerr, who is competing in this week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
This winner of 20 LPGA titles including two majors is well aware of how those to have given the men’s tour a try have mostly had one good round and one not so good. Apart from Sorenstam, Michelle Wie, when she played in the Sony Open at the age of 14, shot a 72 and a 68 while, most recently, Brittany Lincicome scored 78-71 in the Barbasol Championship in Kentucky.
“It’s really hard to go out there with the microscope on you,” said Kerr, who on Thursday joined Colin Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie as an ambassador for Loch Lomond Whiskies, the official spirit of the Open Championship, Ricoh Women’s British Open and Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open. “It’s not just the pressure of being unable to hit as long a ball as the men, it’s having all those eyeballs on you when you’ve only got this one chance. Where’s the comfort level in that? Multiple attempts could result in a better showing.
“There are things,” she continued, “I’d like to see happen before this – i.e., everyone on the LPGA making a great living – but it would definitely be an interesting exercise.”
Kerr being Kerr, she was quick to balance the upside of the experiment against the downside. “If the player in question had some success among the five or six events, it would be great news for the LPGA Tour. If, on the other hand, she failed miserably, it wouldn’t work so well. All those people who had gone to spectate would be left with the impression that the women aren’t that good.”
Kerr, who once turned down an invitation to play in a men’s event on the grounds that the course – it was in Florida – wouldn’t have worked for her, believes that Lincicome and Wie would be the two players best suited to the five-or-six-in-a-row task.
“They’re both long enough. Brittany is a free-wheeler and she’s consistent, while, with Michelle, it would depend how she was playing. Whoever it is would do better not to care too much. As for the most appropriate courses, firm, fast, courses could work for both of them.”
A British links in the mix, perhaps?
“Maybe, though the par-3s would be tough for the women if the wind got up. Brittany and Michelle are long but you have to remember that where Brittany averages 270 or so with her drives, the men are carrying that distance. Also, where the women might need a 3-wood, you could have occasions where the men are only needing a 6- or 7-iron.”
“It’s a pity people are so obsessed with length,” she continued, “because when men play among us in (LPGA) pro-ams, they will often say how much easier it is for them to relate to the way we play.”
Kerr recalled the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge (featuring teams representing the PGA Tour, the Champions tour and the LPGA) which had as many as 22 instalments in the bag when the sponsors called a halt in 2013. (In other words, at a time when “equality” was still some way removed from the talking point it is today.)
“The tees were appropriately staggered and it was an event that used to show us in a good light,” said Kerr, who played in the 2013 edition when she, Natalie Gulbis and Stacy Lewis had the better of Fred Funk, Bernhard Langer and Kenny Perry, representing the seniors, and Jason Day, Billy Horschel and Boo Weekley from the PGA Tour.
Even as Kerr thought about the prospect of a Lincicome or a Wie being given an elongated stint among the men, she was bringing up some of the questions which would need to be asked. Firstly, would sponsors of the relevant events be prepared to give five or more chances in a row? Again, would it need to be the same woman playing each time?
Asked if she felt if the above was something we should expect to see in, say, five years’ time, or whether it could happen now, Kerr went with the latter.
“It could happen now and, though it would be tough for (an LPGA player) to get a good result, it would certainly get people’s attention.”