Posted March 27, 2014

Watch the Women: The LPGA Is Great And More Golf Fans Should Care

Blog, News
Lydia Ko

Lydia Ko tees off in the final round of the JTBC LPGA Founders Cup. (Getty Images)

On a sunny, 83-degree Saturday in Phoenix this past weekend, I stood next to the 12th tee during the third round of the LPGA Tour’s JTBC Founders Cup event. There was a back-up, for some reason, and I didn’t mind. Hall-of-Famer Karrie Webb and defending champion Stacy Lewis, ranked third in the world, were paired together. They made small talk with each other, with their caddies, with fans. They kept loose with waggles and practice swings. Ahead of them, in the fairway, Morgan Pressel and Hee Young Park waited to hit, until Victoria Elizabeth and Anna Nordqvist, winner of the 2014 Honda LPGA Thailand event, cleared the green. I volunteered to the folks around me that Nordqvist was a former Arizona State star and had made the first hole-in-one in Solheim Cup history last year. Behind Webb and Lewis, gallery favorite Michelle Wie and Eun-Hee Ji stood idly on the far back tee, waiting their turn to move to the tee box at this 438-yard, par-4. We all stood at the edge of the tee ropes, merely a few feet away from a bevy of the greatest women golfers in the world. By my estimate, there were 80 of us – total — watching the action unfold.

Why aren’t there more people watching the ladies? Part of me doesn’t understand why there weren’t more spectators. (The other part doesn’t mind, because the up-close access is fantastic.) What I do know is that they offer a much better product than a generation or two ago: better athletes, better techniques, better results. Scoring was as hot as the desert sun. The leaders had scorched the Wildfire Golf Club at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge for 16-under-par totals with 25 holes to go. The quality of play was outstanding.

Wildfire Golf Club couldn’t enjoy a more convenient location, in north Phoenix, at the confluence of several major freeways. Parking is pretty easy. Admittedly, the distant holes such as the 12th at the hybrid layout (nine holes from the resort’s Arnold Palmer course and nine holes from its Nick Faldo course) are a bit of a trek, but the ground is flat, so it’s not too traumatic getting out to watch the play.

I noticed larger galleries the day before on holes closer to the entrance and clubhouse, but they were no bigger than you might see in a U.S. Amateur. Here we were at the 12th tee, on “Moving Day” and the sparseness was startling. The men’s equivalent would have been standing 15 feet away as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy wandered by.

Two twosomes later, Inbee Park and Lizette Salas strolled onto the tee box and were soon joined by tall Jessica Korda and So Yeon Ryu, ranked fifth in the world. I whispered to those around me that Inbee was the world’s No. 1 women’s golfer, and that she had captured the first three majors of 2013. I mentioned how the 21-year-old Korda was the daughter of former tennis great Petr Korda and that she had won the Bahamas LPGA event earlier this year. Ten minutes later, leaders Lydia Ko and Mirim Lee appeared. The 16-year-old Ko impresses me most among the young stars, not only with her game but also her demeanor. I sat next to her at a dinner at Mission Hills Haikou in China when she was 14, and I was floored with her maturity.

Ko wouldn’t win on Sunday. She closed with a respectable 70, for 18-under-par, but was blitzed by the veteran Karrie Webb, who ripped a final-round 63 to win her 41st LPGA Tour event by a single stroke. The 39-year-old drained a 20-footer for birdie at 18, her fifth birdie in her final six holes, in posting a back-nine 30. Her victory tied her with the legendary Bade Didrikson Zaharias for 10th-place on the all-time LPGA victory list. What drama. What history. What great golf. I just wish more people were watching.

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18 comments
Wkamc224601
Wkamc224601

The source of the backup was the previously-mentioned Victoria Elizabeth. I watched the groups come in at 18 on Sunday. There was a two-hole gap between her group and the group ahead, and it was her fault. She took forever to get set to hit her second shot in to 18, and then backed off. There was a very audible gasp from the crowd when she did this. I watched every group come in, and this was the only gap of any significance that I saw all day.

GoodOleTom
GoodOleTom

"There was a back-up, for some reason, and I didn’t mind."

Mr. Passov just answered his own question...most people do mind the snail's pace of the LPGA...it's annoying and a buzz killer.



pp7
pp7

The LPGA is enjoyable for different reason than the mens game.  The woman have calm, graceful golf swings and are more suited to accuracy.  The percentage of fairways hit for the women's game is inspirational along with their short iron abilities to hit it close.  The tour provides a different set of athletes to cheer for and different personalities to admire providing a nice change from the men's game, in which  2014 has been somewhat lackluster thus far.  I also enjoy the Champs Tour because of the great players and more relaxed golf.  The PGA has been a grind this year with nothing but lost leads and tough golf and no superstars to cheer for, providing me another reason to watch the LPGA.

Eric Figueroa
Eric Figueroa

I've enjoyed watching the LPGA Tour. Lorena Ochoa was my favorite player. You're missing out if you aren't watching them on tv or going to their tournaments.

Shamsuddin Kassim
Shamsuddin Kassim

I love to watch these young girls play beautiful golf as it should be played.

Keith Panco
Keith Panco

Matt, I hope I never play golf with you.

D14
D14

There are a ton of reasons why few people give a rat's fanny about the LPGA.


1) While, as you say, "they offer a much better product than a generation or two ago: better athletes, better techniques, better results."  : * while you're right the product is better it still pales to the talent on the PGA, Webcom and Champions Tour. There is only so much time and money one can spend and most people, quite logically, choose to spend their time and money watching the best.


2) The scoring may be improved as well, but it no secret that LPGA courses are set up, especially in comparison to men's golf, to promote lower scoring. The fairways are more generous, the rough less penal, the greens slower and the pin placements more (much more) favorable. If you don't believe me, pay more attention, go to a few LPGA events, as I have, or listen to Mr. Davis discussing the set up for the Open, one week after the men's open at Pinehurst.


3) There is a widespread skepticism about the statistics provided by the LPGA. The last time I looked they were claiming an average driving distance of +/- 255 yards. As one who has watched the ladies in person I'll say this...either they are measuring holes with predominate wind assistance or down hill holes or something because those numbers are either fabrications or manufacture. I recall sitting at about the 250 mark on a hole years ago, watched about five or six groups hit tee shots and only one made it 250 yards. On flat ground and good weather, as I had, they average about 235-240.


4) While there are some excellent talents on the LPGA, 85-90% are what I would call "pedestrian". I quit going to watch them when I realized that a good 3/4 of the field would have a tough time in a good high school boys tournament.


5) The girls are slow, slow, slow. The pace of play is glacial, especially on the greens. They would be well served to disallow lines on the ball and to disallow caddy assistance in lining up.


I'm sure I'll get all kinds hate mail and accused of misogyny but, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, "you can have your own opinion but not your facts".

Matt Holt
Matt Holt

Kent, sure thing bud. Nothing like blasting the ball 220 off the box and playing a 6200 course. Can't miss tv IMO. Lulz

bernicemaminski
bernicemaminski

I can't remember an LPGA player having as dominating a year as Inbee Park did last year. If she has another year even close to last than a dominant player has emerged. Can she putt that good for that long. Time will tell.

Guy Crawford
Guy Crawford

I hardly miss it! I'm looking forward to both of their Tour stops in Alabama on the RTJ Trail. We play some golf and then go watch the ladies play. It's worth the drive over from NOLA!

Ann Miller
Ann Miller

Have you seen their tournament schedule? Most of it is overseas. But I like to watch it on tv.

John Doiron
John Doiron

If the Golf Channel were on the Dish Network package I pay for, then I would get to watch.

Rae Ouzts
Rae Ouzts

when the hell is it on? 2am?

Kent Williams
Kent Williams

LPGA puts on a far better show, than the PGA.

tommyrogo
tommyrogo

My problem with the LPGA has been the dominance of the Koreans over the past few seasons.  They are young and disciplined.  But, for the most part, are boring.  I need that dominant group of Americans who are in contention week after week.  I don't want to watch the Korean tour.  

This year Paula and Wie have shown signs of being in the hunt.  And Jessica Korda and Lexi Thompson are fun to watch and have been in the hunt.  I got to see the ladies twice when in the Detroit area.  The US Open at Indianwood was a treat.  I remember Laura Davies hitting an iron tee shot off a par 4 while the other 2 golfers looked at each other in disbelief.  

The LPGA needs that dominant player.  Inbee is trying and Karrie is playing awesome.  

macer
macer

Mr. Passov,

Thank you for the "questioning" article.  The LPGA Tour is certainly coming back from disastrous leadership under (can't think of her name).  Michael Whan has increased the number of events, reached out to retired players with the Founders Cup, has an end of the year race this season, and earned the respect of the players.

I believe the LPGA Tour is most attractive when a superstar dominates with several strong players in pursuit.  For example, Si Ri Pak, Karrie Webb, Annika, and Lorena Ochoa were very good for the tour when they were number one in the world.  Currently, the LPGA Tour lacks a superstar.

Michelle Wie showed great potential during her initial years on tour, however, did not dominate nor was she a consistent winner.  Wie, moreover, pouted, W.D. from Annika's event citing an injury and went to the next one to practice, and acted like a spoiled child with tour officials and club personnel.  Wie's parents were overbearing with those same tour officials and club personnel, hence Beth Daniels placing all official Solheim Cup activities off-limits to Wie's parents.  Wie has not demonstrated the capacity to win multiple events in one season on the LPGA Tour.

The slow pace of play on the LPGA Tour and PGA Tour makes it difficult to watch play on-site or on television.  Boring!

If Lexi Thompson, Lydia Ko, Morgan Pressel, Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie, or Stacy Lewis dominates, I believe more patrons would be attracted to the LPGA Tour.

Wkamc224601
Wkamc224601

Regarding #3: I watched a lot of them hit at that tournament, and played in the pro-am with two of them. I have also played in a charity event for 10 years with LPGA players. I would say about 10 or 20 of them are longer than 260, and 4-5 are in the 270-275 range. Most are under 250. Some of the best players, such as Ay Miyazato, are under 240. But that is one of the reasons I like the LPGA: their distances and club choices are the same as mine. The men pros are from another planet. The LPGA is just a different product with its own attractions.

Regarding #5: their pace of play is no different from the men. And after last week's snooze-fest with Loupe and Bowditch, I will be watching a lot less PGA golf.

D14
D14

baloney

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