Is the LPGA too good?

Brian Heard Women's Golf Reporter

On the days leading up to each tournament, the LPGA Tour Web site polls its visitors on which golfer will win the event. There are usually five or six choices – four or five golfers and an “other” option.

Heck, I like polls as much as the next guy, so sometimes I play the game and make a selection.

But there’s never any real conviction behind the choice – and how could there be? In 12 official tournaments this season, we have 11 different champions. Only Lorena Ochoa has won twice (the Honda LPGA Thailand and the Corona Championship).

Which begs the question: Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

On the good side of the ledger, it speaks to the depth of talent on Tour and how hard it is to win for even the very best players. A quick examination of the money list will verify that.

Nearing the halfway mark of the season, no player is all that close to $1 million – nobody could reach it without winning this week’s Wegmans event either. The top four (Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim, Ochoa and Jiyai Shin) would all get there with a win. And, only Kerr is on pace to make $2 mil (just barely too) for the season. If she, or anyone else didn’t get to that plateau, it would mark the first time since 2000 that happened.

The flipside is there are 24 players who have already made more than a quarter-million bucks, and 11 who are on pace to surpass $1 million for the year.

From a competition standpoint it’s wonderful – we’re seeing great golf combined with great intrigue every tournament.

And the trend should continue with so many really good young players from all over the world (admittedly, most from Korea), and some pretty good veterans still playing well – Pat Hurst won this year, Se Ri Pak finished second at the State Farm, Helen Alfredsson has been in the mix frequently and we’ve already mentioned Kerr and Ochoa.

Now for the bad side of the ledger: Is all that really good for the Tour?

Think about it. The PGA Tour seems to be on firmer financial footing, and though Tiger Woods doesn’t make very many appearances, the Tour can and does sell him like crazy. They do the same with Phil Mickelsen too. They have two luminaries – Tiger much brighter, of course – that make the dial on the star meter dance and drive fans in droves to tournaments and their TV sets alike.

The LPGA doesn’t have that star power right now, though most sources say its TV ratings continue to rise. But fact is: If you asked a casual sports fan to name a handful of current LPGA players, they’d be hard-pressed. Of course, they might have a tough time naming many other than Phil and Tiger on the men’s side.

It’s dilemma of which I’m not smart enough to solve or understand which side of things is better.

And yes, it would be entertaining to see one or two or three players break out of the LPGA pack this season, possibly developing compelling individual rivalries.

But it’s kind of fun not knowing who’ll be at the top of the leaderboard come Sunday, and getting to know new names and faces almost every week.

The point of all this? Well, it’s really a matter of opinion right now. Would the Tour be better off if it had its own Tiger or Phil? We won’t know the answer until it happens, if it happens.

We kind of had that situation in 2007 with Ochoa, but she’s come back to the pack, or the pack has caught up with her. And not to defame Lorena, she just isn’t that marketable.

Or maybe the LPGA is better off right now, with this great wall of parity – where trying to figure out beforehand how the leaderboard will look on Sunday is like trying to do calculus in your head.

I don’t know the answers. But it is food for thought.
 

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