Sunday, January 24, 2010


Slump does not worry Danny Lee

... dismisses the need for a coach

A retreat from the US PGA Tour to the European version, a putting catastrophe at the cathedral of golf in Augusta and another missed cut overnight to add to a terrible start to 2010.
Welcome to the world of Danny Lee, the supposed next big thing of international golf – a fair statement too, after the teenager wiped Tiger Woods out of the history books as the youngest US amateur championship winner.
But after a duffed professional debut on tour, with only one top 10 finish and six missed cuts out of 12 tournaments, Lee lost the right to play with the big boys in America. Lee is picture above in happier trophy-winnng days.
Vowing to return with a solid season in Europe, his fightback is off to the worst possible start with Lee yet to make a cut, his latest failure coming last Friday when he failed to advance beyond the second round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
This is not the scenario many anticipated for a young man frequently mentioned worldwide alongside precocious 20-year-old Irishman Rory McIlroy as the new kids Tiger and company need to fear in the new decade.
Not that Lee gives any impression that things are not on track.
In fact, his first major media interview for the year was remarkable for the supreme confidence the 19-year-old Lee has in himself.
"My game's good and I can make it back," he told Sunday News from Dubai.
"I always dreamed about playing on the US PGA Tour and last year it finally came true. But I wasn't good enough to make this year's card. It was tougher than I thought. I think it's hard to manage the schedule."
Despite being a full-time member of the European Tour, Lee continues to live in Dallas, facing hefty commutes to Africa and the Middle East already this month. Even odder is Lee's admission to Sunday News that Dallas "doesn't really feel like home".
Asked why he hasn't relocated, Lee said: "I haven't really thought about it." Unusual? Yes. But then comes the downright bizarre.
While the world's best players Phil Mickelson, and Lee's self-confessed hero, Tiger Woods, put their careers in the hands of world-renowned swing gurus Butch Harmon and Hank Haney, the struggling young Kiwi dismisses the need for a coach.
"Hearing lots of information from lots of people, always thinking about your swing – it messes with my head. I don't think it's worth it.
"I think coaching yourself is the best way to do it, not thinking too much."
A rude awakening surely awaits such a naive stance, and should Lee's poor form continue much longer, persuasion to reconsider will be essential to prevent him slipping into oblivion.
The image of Lee waving the New Zealand flag on the green at Pinehurst after victory over Drew Kittleson seems a distant memory. Since winning the US amateur little over a year ago Lee's had little to celebrate on the fairways.
A dream appearance at Augusta National, arguably the world's most prestigious course, quickly turned into a nightmare when Lee took a record-high quintuple bogey 9 to complete the par 4 10th hole at the 2009 US Masters.
In his first three tournaments this year, Lee has failed to make the cut. "My game's really good at the moment, I'm confident about the year ahead," he said.
"You've got to be yourself and not listen to other people too much. Michael Campbell has helped me a lot and he told me the same thing, you've got to be yourself."
But while Lee struggles to match his billing, other hotly-tipped young-guns like Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa go from strength-to-strength on the world stage.
Ultimately, golfers are judged on their performance in the season's four majors, the US Masters, US Open, British Open and USPGA Championship.
Lee faces an uphill task to qualify.
"If I play well in Europe my world ranking will go up and I'll have a good chance," Lee said.
Currently weighing in at 147th in the world, Lee needs to get his skates on if he is to make the US Masters in April and revisit the scene of his infamous six-putt at Augusta National.



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