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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Quick Review of the LPGA

Since the LPGA is finished for the year I thought I'd take a quick look back and ahead.

First, a quick mention of notable players this year:
  • Yani Tseng won 7 LPGA events in 2011, more than 3 times anybody else. She won two more majors in that total, making her the youngest person ever (male or female) to reach 5 majors.
  • We had several 2-time winners -- Karrie Webb, Suzann Pettersen, and Brittany Lincicome.
  • There were several first-time winners, although the most notable was probably Lexi Thompson. That win at the Navistar LPGA Classic made her the youngest winner in LPGA history. She was nearly 18 months younger than the previous record holder, Marlene Hagge (in an 18-hole event). She was over 2 years younger than Paula Creamer, the 4-round tournament record holder.
  • Some notable players didn't win at all -- Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie, Jiyai Shinn, and I.K. Kim among them. I'd give Kerr an "A" for effort though; she had 2 seconds, 2 thirds, and 3 fourths. This is almost the same problem Suzann had in 2010!
  • And as you know, worldwide Yani won 11 times in total while nabbing the LPGA money title. She won the Player of the Year for the second time in a row. She also won the scoring average (I believe that's the Vare Trophy) and finished at #15 on the career money list. That's the career list, folks... and she's only 22! She's got about half of Lorena (#3) and Karrie's (#2) totals and only about a third of Annika's (#1) total, however, so it may be a while till she catches them.
  • Hee Kyung Seo, "the Supermodel of the Fairways," won the Rookie of the Year award going away.
  • And the European team pulled an upset in the Solheim Cup with a last-minute victory over the US team.
Michael Whan managed to add some new events to the schedule despite the economy. While some were controversial, like the R.R. Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup with its "phantom" purse, the Tour clearly benefited from his creativity. You may have already heard that the Australian Open will be the new first event on the Tour and it will be held at Royal Melbourne, site of last week's Presidents Cup -- definitely a high-profile move by the Tour. Some older events, like the Jamie Farr Classic, will be returning. And Whan has been tantalizing everyone with his announcement that the LPGA will be creating a multi-country team event that will be sort of a cross between the Solheim Cup and the Olympics. Let me take a moment to describe what I understand about this event.

This as-yet-unnamed event will be held in non-Solheim Cup years and the countries that actually participate may change from one event to the next, depending on how countries do in the as-yet-to-be-set-up qualification tournaments. The first few times it will be held in America to eliminate some of the excess travel while the bugs are being worked out. While there have been many jokes made about where Suzann Pettersen's Norwegian team will be coming from (there are no other Norwegians in the Top 1000 of the Rolex world rankings), Whan made a very interesting comment on Monday's Morning Drive. He essentially said, "We won't use the rankings. If all I wanted to do was get the top players there, I could do that in other ways."

I really like Michael Whan. How many commissioners, fighting to build the Tour in a struggling economy, would have the balls to say and do something like that? It's no wonder he's won most of the LPGA over, despite occasionally controversial moves.

While the most controversial move may have been making the Evian Masters into a fifth major effective 2013, I still believe that was a pre-emptive measure in case the Kraft Nabisco has to be downgraded to gain a new sponsor. Even if things go as the Tour hopes and KN re-ups, I expect the LPGA Championship will eventually become a "roving" major to help build their worldwide presence. That would create 2 American majors, 2 European majors (which, I should point out, are the only 2 majors the LET currently recognizes -- I think that played a part in this move as well), and a "rest of the world" major. It makes sense, given Whan's clearly global view of the LPGA.

And the fact that Whan has secured Symetra as the new Futures Tour sponsor for several years (and maintaining the current 16-event schedule) is also good news for the up-and-comers in women's golf.

Although the LPGA hasn't confirmed their entire 2012 schedule yet, Whan has made it clear that they will add about 6 events and they have a couple of announcements yet to make later this year. With that good news and with both a clearly dominant player (Tseng) and a possible new young superstar (Thompson) to launch the 2012 season, the future is definitely looking up for the LPGA.


  1. Don't forget the New tournament next year in June, in Waterloo, Canada.

  2. Yeah, I'll have to print a complete list once they release the full schedule. I suppose you guys will too, right?