No, it's not a new series of events on the Siberian LPGA. It's how Maria Verchenova hits the ball. After she got near the lead in the Dubai tournament yesterday -- she's tied for 4th after her 2nd round -- I got a little curious about how the only Russian female pro on the LET gets it done.
I can tell you that she drives the ball just over 259 -- I guess that's in meters, so that's close to 285 yards -- which may sound pretty long, but I think it's reasonable. She's just over 5'9" and her swing resembles Michelle Wie's, as you'll see in the video below. (I love the way the guys are going nuts over her shot!) She hits just over 68% of her fairways and 67% of her greens in regulation. I can also tell you that her scoring average is 74.24. Her scoring dropped off in 2009, but she's improving again.
I realize these aren't great stats, but how many great Russian golfers have you seen? I think this is part of her appeal; you just don't expect to see a Russian golf pro, let alone a female pro. She's obviously had to do this on her own, and she's done well.
Here's the main video I was able to find of her swing. For those of you who are wondering, since this video is shot from slightly in front of her, I'd guess her ball position is even with or just inside her left heel:
As I said, her swing looks a lot like Michelle Wie's. And -- as I am wont to do -- I wondered if there was anything funky about her swing. Indeed there is! Here's a photo sequence I worked up from the video -- it's hard to get a regular-speed video to stop where you need it to, folks! -- but this will give you the idea. You can see in the video that she has a very athletic and traditional setup... but take a good look at her left knee and foot in this sequence (and yes, the 2nd image is her backswing and the 3rd image is her downswing):
Her left foot stays flat on the ground most of the way to her finish, and her left knee really squats down on her backswing... and even more on her downswing! She doesn't lean sideways, she goes straight down. Then she pushes up as her hands enter the hitting zone. This is how she develops so much power. (Some of you history buffs may remember the trademark "Sam Snead squat." This is very similar, except Sam's knees would separate when he squated and Maria's knees stay roughly the same distance apart.)
How much does she push up as she hits the ball? Just look at her hip position -- not her head, which stays about the same height all the way through -- and compare the bottom edge of her pink shirt to those letters on the sign behind her. That's gotta be 5 or 6 inches of flex! Otherwise her swing is pretty typical.
I found one other piece of video -- a sand play tip Maria did for the LET. I'm including it because she not only covers a standard sand shot, but a buried sand shot. If you saw Gary Player on Golf Channel Wednesday night, this is the same info he gave...
But it's prettier when she does it, don't you think? ;-)
I understand Maria only needs a Top 20 finish to keep her LET Tour card without a trip to Q-School. If she can just hold it together for a couple more rounds, she should make that easily. You go, girl!