LPGA Needs New Phenom to Jolt Ratings?

Who’s Grabbing the Attention on the LPGA Tour These Days?

I have read this week that despite Michael Whan’s terrific progress over the past few years, something is lacking at the top of the leaderboard to kick start a new wave of gallery passion in the women’s game. That question begs several others. Among them is “who shall it be?” Who is the dominating golf tsunami that will stand the LPGA on its head the way Tiger did with the PGA?

I thought back to the very beginnings of the women’s tour, and realized that the golfer who sounds as if she belongs in superhero suit in a Marvel movie has never existed. It has produced several phenoms in the same generation. Maybe there has been more of a wrecking ball more in the men’s case from time to time, but never has the top golfer in the world been without competition, regardless of how much it might have appeared that way.

If we need the emergence of a super golfer, is she already in the ranks, or does it have to be a newcomer no one has ever heard of? In the absence of Annika and Lorena, Mickey, Patty, Marilyn, Kathy, and the other multiple champions, the talent pool of today is nevertheless very deep. We are not in want of great talent. The most recent wave of great players has not yet hit its peak, and that certain star could come from any continent or country – who knows? Still, I have to wonder, does she need to take the tour by the throat and utterly dominate it?
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Palmer, Nicklaus and Player were huge winners, but I don’t believe that’s what ultimately sealed the deal of The Big Three. The gallery didn’t spontaneously bestow that title on the trio. Someone marketed them that way, and did it ever work to perfection. The LPGA might benefit not from that single star, but from a friendly but competitive duo or trio that combine to be a “thing,” a “phenomenon.”

Whether it is to be an individual or a group sensation, it may not be just the golf that makes it so fascinating. We don’t know if Shibuno is to be the star we’re talking about, but in terms of our bonding to her personality, she might as well have a fairy godmother who made her clothes and zapped a pumpkin to get her there. The Brits fell in love with her like she was one of their own, and the world could easily fall the same way, even if she doesn’t become the next Annika.

What if it’s Brooke Henderson, who is just as comfortable with a stick and puck as she is with a golf ball. That tenacity could be a draw. Any number of golfers from Asia could form a part of the LPGA Marvel team. Two or three similar or disparate personalities might do the trick – makes no difference. Rivalries can be marketed in no time at all, dependent on which venues are set up to pit them against one another, or a third party. Remember, Bobby Riggs didn’t do Billie Jean King any harm, and beating him made it a ton better.

A phenomenal “contend every week” type might galvanize the crowd that flat out requires a winner. The smiling Cinderella might garner the “loves bunny rabbits” crowd, oh and by the way, doesn’t she play well?  It looks to me that if there is a lack of tour personality, and if something needs to be done, Michael Whan is the guy to do it. He has everything he would ever need. Now, he just needs to think up “a thing.”

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