Wednesday, November 17

The Ladies Parity Golf Association (LPGA)

THERE ARE SIX LADIES vying for the Rolex Player of the Year, Vare Trophy (lowest scoring average) and the LPGA money title: Yani Tseng, Ai Miyazato, Cristie Kerr, Jiyai Shin, Suzanne Pettersen and Na Yeon Choi. The post-Annika, post-Lorena LPGA has a new and very crowded look at the top. That’s why I was thinking we could start calling it the Ladies Parity Golf Association. We know they’re pros, so why not use the “P” for something that fits today’s LPGA?

They’ll settle POY, the money title and other season-ending issues at the LPGA Tour Championship in two weeks at the Grand Cypress Golf Club in Orlando, Florida.

(Photo: Yani Tseng / Keith Allison, Flickr)

It’s been crazy since Lorena Ochoa retired in May. The top spot in the Rolex Rankings (women’s world No. 1, not to be confused with Rolex Player of the Year) has turned over nine times among three players—Miyazato, Shin and Kerr. Shin is the current No. 1 and holds a slim .49 edge over Pettersen. Kerr is third and Tseng fourth.

The money title has come down to Shin and Choi. In addition, Choi, with a 69.77 scoring average, has a .09 lead over Kerr in the Vare Trophy race.

If I counted correctly, there have been 15 winners in 25 events thus far. Miyazato, Tseng, Kerr, Shin and Choi have multiple wins this season. The LPGA is an extremely competitive tour these days. That’s a positive.

But is parity a good thing? Mega stars like Sorenstam, Ochoa and, for the men, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, have brought more exposure to professional golf, a minor sport that struggles for attention—and always will.

Parity can be good for core fans. I’m in favor of it. For me, dominance gets boring. But does parity make the LPGA a harder sell when it comes to attracting a larger following? Mike Whan might not say so, but I think it does.

−The Armchair Golfer


Sports Medic said...

I think the "P" the LPGA has to worry about is "Programming". The number of events The Golf Channel opt not to cover or cover with tape delay does not get it the level of exposure it needs. Their web site has rankings and stats that are three to 6 weeks old. Broadcasts are poorly produced commercial fests and they spend little time developing interest in the golfers. They don't embrace technologies like webcasts that cold provide realtime coverage, especially in the weeks that they decide not to do a TV broadcast. They put more promotion and marketing in the Big Break series that features winners who don't even have the skill to maintain tour cards. Unlike last year where the LPGA had alot of one-win wonders, this year there is a consolidation of talent near the top. There is a wide range of playing styles, personal styles, backgrounds and playing locales. This should make TGC's job easier. With that going for it, the LPGA should not be behind the Nationwide tour in The Golf Channel's rotation.

The other thing to remenber about the LPGA is that the top players are young. Ji Yai Shin leads the Rolex Rankings at only 22 years old. Yani Tseng is 21. Ai Miyazato is 25. Na Yeon Choi is 23. Suzanne Pettersen at 29 and Christie Kerr at 33 are the oldest of this group. Then there is a group of talented young American golfers that include Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel and Natalie Gulbis range in age from 21 to 27. They are going to get even better. The tour has a great nucleus of young talent to build around for years to come.

bkuehn1952 said...

Personally, I find professional golf more compelling when there are a couple of superstars. I actually paid attention to the Champions Tour for a while when Fred Couples was on his hot streak.

The days of Annika being chased by Webb and Pak were the high water mark for the LPGA. Once Lorena Ochoa became dominant, there were no truly established superstars to challenge her. Interest started to wane. Once Lorena left the stage, we were left with a committee operating as #1 with virtually no interest outside the hard core LPGA fans. The LPGA desperately needs a new superstar who can capture the interest of fans outside the LPGA's fan core.

Anonymous said...

I see the point you're trying to make but the fact is there is very little parity on the LPGA Tour. You have about 14 players out of hundreds who have a realistic chance of winning. You have women playing on the Tour who would have double digit handicaps! It's a really a tour for the top 15 players and the rest are just there to fill the Pro Am slots and tournament fields.

The Constructivist said...

Me, I like real pennant races, not victory laps, in golf, so I don't get at all why nobody in the mainstream golfy media is really paying serious attention to the LPGA. Kaymer and McDowell are something like 300K Euros apart, but Choi and Shin are closer to $30K!

I agree with Anon that the top 15 female golfers in the world have really separated themselves from even their top competition, but I think the global talent pool's a lot deeper than he (I assume) believes. The JLPGA's rookie of the year and player of the year, Sun-Ju Ahn, moved up from #71 in the Rolex Rankings a year ago to #11 today. Leads me to believe that there are more like 100 players capable of making such a quantum leap (not all of them on the LPGA) to that level.