Tataurangi fears Lee is squandering his best years
Phil Tataurangi believes Kiwi golfer Danny Lee is squandering the prime years of his career.
Lee withdrew from the BMW Championship in Illinois with an apparent back injury after playing just two holes yesterday, meaning the 27-year-old has pulled the pin on seven tournaments in the past three years.
Tataurangi, a member of New Zealand’s 1992 Eisenhower Trophy winning team, hasn’t spoken to Lee since he called it quits after a birdie and bogey at the Conway Farms Golf Club, but did question his resilience during an interview with Stuff.
‘‘Unfortunately, Danny has kind of shown us in a couple of instances if it hasn’t quite gone his way, or if he’s dealing with something, he opts to step it out instead of grind it out,’’ Tataurangi, a one-time winner on the PGA Tour, said.
‘‘He’s been battling a few niggly things throughout the course of the season, but there are times when you’re not quite sure with Danny how much persistence or resilience is there.’’
While not a close mentor of Lee, Tataurangi regularly keeps in touch with the 93rd world ranked player when he is leading tour groups or commentating tournaments.
Lee missed the cut in the four previous tournaments leading up to the BMW Championship, and hasn’t recorded a top-10 finish since snaring a share of ninth at the Greenbrier Classic in July.
Too much golf is the prime reason Tataurangi believes Lee is letting what should be his best years slip away.
Lee has played 95 tournaments in the past three years. In comparison, 2016 US Open champion Dustin Johnson (US) has played 66 tournaments and withdrew once in the same period.
Throw in a busy travel schedule, and an appetite to train, and it can all get a bit too much.
‘‘At the start of the year, I felt he was starting to understand that and peel it back a little bit,’’ Tataurangi said.
‘‘It seems a lot to me that he might have fallen back into some old habits of too much practice. And when your game goes a little bit off it’s hard to not resort to your instincts of finding it on the range, and that’s certainly his instinct.’’
Tataurangi, 45, added he’s been concerned for a while that Lee has been letting old habits creep back into his game, including not learning from mistakes and repeating errors he made early in his career.
He doesn’t doubt Lee has the ability to add to his sole PGA Tour win, but a mental and physical break might be just what he needs.
‘‘He’s in his prime right now, just given that he turned pro early, he’s had a lot of experience around the tour, he’s respected, his game is proven, and this is kind of when you want to make hay.
‘‘There are a number of young players in that mid to late 20s that have followed a similar kind of path to Danny and are having major success. And he’s kind of got the potential to be in that same category, but he just kind of continues to do things each year that hold him back.’’
Kiwi golfer Danny Lee, pictured in action in New York last month, has withdrawn from the BMW Championship with a back injury.