Disorderly Golf

March 23, 2010 11:00 PM

The LPGA Lives!

Michelle Wie has agreed to an endorsement deal with McDonald's for an ad campaign that will run in five languages.  Will one of them be English?277350b7-db6b-45e9-86bc-a1700e673793.jpg

Remember when the only text messages from Tiger that we knew about were the ones he sent to Annika Sorenstam?  Contrary to popular impression, there is still an LPGA.  Its season started over a month ago, in Thailand and Singapore.  Ai Miyazato won both events: by a stroke over Suzann Pettersen at the Siam Country Club, and then by two over Cristie Kerr the next week.  The Tour is in southern California this week and next, first for the KIA CLASSIC Presented By J Golf (linking a Korean car company with a Korean broadcasting concern), then for the season's first major, the Kraft Nabisco in Rancho Mirage.  

It's a little sudden to have a major in your fourth tournament, though the Kraft Nabisco has been even earlier, third, in the past decade.  The structure's a little like NASCAR's, where they play the World Series first (Daytona 500), then go on to the regular season.

There was a lot of excitement a few years back about the young American women starting to emerge.  The perception is that they've been disappointing, but for all the talk of their victory drought, Paula Creamer has won eight tournaments and nearly $7 million; Brittany Lincicome won a major last year; Morgan Pressel has a major; and Michelle Wie won her first tournament last November.  The four are 23, 24, 21, and 20, respectively.  They're joined in the American contingent by Twitter All-Star Christina Kim, Angela Stanford, Kristy McPherson, and the irrepressible Juli Inkster.

The international talent in the women's game is both an opportunity and a challenge.  In the wake of the disastrous commissionership of Carolyn Bivens, the schedule is sharply reduced, and half the events will be held outside the United States.  There are eleven countries represented on the schedule: Thailand, Singapore, Jamaica, Mexico, France, England, Canada, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, and the U.S.  The current top eight in the Rolex world rankings are from eight different countries; women from Asia occupy ten of the top twenty spots.  That list includes Korea's Jiyai Shin (below), Rookie of the Year last year when she won three tournaments and led the money list; Japan's Miyazato, who broke through at the Evian Ladies Masters last summer; and Taiwan's Yani Tseng, a major winner in 2008.  
Ji-yai Shin, LPGA.jpg

The LPGA's television presence in the U.S. is all but nonexistent; in the Far East women's golf is a major force, and it is logical that the tournaments would follow the interest and the money.  The year to come is a tricky one for the tour, but a few good showings by Michelle Wie are all it needs to see a quick upswing in attention.  If the LPGA were a stock, this would be an awfully good time to buy.    

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