Of all the challenges stacked up against the LPGA, hazardous smog was somewhere around 101st on a list of 100.
That's no longer the case after the circuit's first tournament in China, the Reignwood LPGA Classic, was plagued by smog so thick that it delayed third-round tee times for 90 minutes and had players and caddies coughing and covering up with hastily constructed facemasks.
According to a report on Bloomberg.com, the conditions were so bad as to jeopardize players' safety, but in light of the importance of establishing a foothold in China, one of the few places in the world where golf is booming, the LPGA made the decision to play on.
At the top of the leader board going into Sunday’s final round was Guangzhou-born Shanshan Feng. As the LPGA website announced, “This week is all about .... Shanshan Feng.”
Unfortunately for the LPGA, this week has also been all about air pollution. Since last weekend, Beijing has been swamped in polluted air that intermittently breaches “hazardous” levels, as determined by the U.S. embassy in Beijing’s air-quality monitor (the Beijing government’s air-quality stations have measured similar levels). The situation has been ugly enough that according to guidelines posted by the U.S. Department of State, “active” adults and children “should avoid all outdoor exertion.”
A professional golf tournament may not require the physical exertion of a soccer game, but it does require quite a significant amount of time outdoors. At the Reignwood LPGA Classic, days traversing golf courses have taken their toll. “The smog that’s coming in right now, it’s making it heavy, and it’s harder to breathe out there,” American Jessica Korda said on Friday. “You cough a lot.” Players and caddies have been photographed wearing face-masks against a smoggy backdrop (notably, none of those images appear on the LPGA website).