Sometimes coaching is as impossible as it is fun.
With two of his players going against each other in the final group Sunday at the Toto Japan Classic, Gary Gilchrist is in an awkward but enjoyable position.
He is swing coach to Shanshan Feng, who leads the tournament. And he is swing coach to Ariya Jutanugarn, who is one shot back.
“I’m proud of having two players performing at a high level,” Gilchrist said. “This game is tough, and it’s never easy to have an opportunity to win. But that’s my goal, to help players be able to shoot scores that give them an opportunity to win on Sundays.”
Feng may be the hottest player in the women’s game as she seeks to claim back-to-back victories. Feng won the Sime Darby Malaysia last week and hasn’t finished worse than T-4 in her last six starts, dating back to her bronze medal performance at the Olympics.
Jutanugarn is in position to claim her sixth title this year and clinch the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year Award.
“Shanshan is one of the most consistent players on tour,” Gilchrist said. “Ariya is probably going to play way more aggressively.”
Gilchrist is at the PGA Tour’s Shriners Hospital for Children Open in Las Vegas this week, but he’ll be up late following the Feng-Jutanugarn final-round pairing in Japan. The final round will be live streamed Saturday night (10 p.m. ET start) on GolfChannel.com and replayed on Golf Channel Sunday (8:30-11:30 a.m. ET)
Gilchrist has been texting with both players all week.
While Feng and Jutanugarn can be two of the most playful players in the game off the course, Gilchrist is expecting the matchup to be fairly intense.
“They are both probably going to be in their bubble out on the course,” Gilchrist said. “It’s why they play so well. It’s going to be interesting to see if there’s much interaction between them. I know they both respect each other, but Ariya is very, very competitive. She plays with this intensity, where Shanshan is very, very focused. So, I think you’re going to see one player who’s very intense and another who’s very focused.”