PITTSFORD, N.Y. – The Americans are planting their flag all over the women’s game again.
With Lexi Thompson winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Michelle Wie the U.S. Women’s Open and Mo Martin the Ricoh Women’s British Open, the Americans are making a run at their first sweep of the major championships since 1992.
The Wegmans LPGA Championship begins Thursday with the Americans looking to keep the run going.
“That would be huge,” Thompson said. “That would be great for women’s golf.”
The Americans aren’t the only ones who think that.
“I think we can have the best of both worlds now,” Australian Hall of Famer Karrie Webb said. “We can have a solid international schedule and really grow the game back here and have a much more solid schedule back here. We needed to have Americans play well so American companies want to sponsor the LPGA.”
With Stacy Lewis winning LPGA Player of the Year two seasons ago, becoming the first American in 18 years to do so, and with Lewis now reigning atop the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, Webb’s assertions are backed up by what’s happening to the LPGA’s schedule.
Lewis has endorsement deals with KPMG, Marathon Oil and Pure Silk. After inking deals with Lewis, all three of those companies stepped up their interest in women’s golf by taking on title sponsorship of LPGA events.
When Wie won in Hawaii earlier this year and then followed up winning the U.S. Women’s Open, England’s Laura Davies knew the upside possible for every LPGA pro around the world.
“Michelle winning was a massive boost for the women’s game,” Davies said. “She’s box office. She’s our Tiger, basically.
“I’m not saying we want another American to win this week, but it’s great for the LPGA. We need good young Americans to win.”
The growth of the international game has helped the LPGA build a solid international base of events, but Webb and Davies both saw how an American swoon could dampen American corporate interest.
Back in 2009, Americans won just five LPGA titles. In ’10, they won just four titles, and in ’11 just four titles again. It was probably no coincidence that in 2011 the LPGA schedule sagged to 23 tournaments, just 13 of them domestic events. The LPGA will feature at least 33 events next year, 17 of them in the United States.
“It’s a great thing for the tour for Americans to be playing well, for your stars to be playing well,” Lewis said. “It’s something we haven’t done in quite a few years.”
The Americans have won 11 LPGA titles already this year. That’s more than they’ve won in any single year since the turn of the century.
“I think it’s really fun for America to watch,” Martin said. “I’m very proud to be American.”