LPGA Strengths and Weaknesses

By Tom AbbottOctober 13, 2010, 9:56 pm
LPGA Tour _newCristie Kerr no doubt cracked open a bottle of her own Curvature wine on Sunday evening and sat sipping with husband, Erik Stevens, thinking about what might have been. Kerr was five shots ahead on the back nine of Saturday’s third round at the Navistar LPGA Classic, but a wayward drive at the 15th hole was the beginning of her unraveling and led to high drama for the closing 18.

Kerr needed to tie for second or better to move back to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but instead of chipping in to force a playoff with eventual winner Katherine Hull on 18, Kerr bogeyed, fell to third in the tournament and only moved from third to second in the rankings.

The battle for the top spot in the world rankings has been an on-going theme since Lorena Ochoa stepped away in April. A big five of Jiyai Shin, Ai Miyazato, Yani Tseng, Suzann Pettersen and Kerr have emerged: five players, five countries and bucket loads of talent. By the end of this season, the five may have swelled to seven or eight, with Na Yeon Choi, Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer all within reach and showing signs of being ready to enter the race.

For someone new to the golf spectrum, this would seem like a sponsor and media dream. So why the lack of tournaments and why the lack of coverage in the mainstream golf media?

The stop-start schedule plays a big-role. This season, the tour began in the Far East, then halted for a few weeks before re-starting in March with a couple of great tournaments in California. The tour disappeared in April, stopping briefly for an event in Jamaica buried on CBS and Lorena’s swansong in Mexico, which wasn’t even televised in the U.S., before reappearing for two events in May, one in Mobile, Ala., the other in New Jersey.

This has been the trend all year:  good events, take a break, return with a couple of good events and so on. It's frustrating for all involved, especially the fans, who have had no-way of following story lines because as soon as they realized what was going on, the tour abruptly halted. This isn’t news to LPGA headquarters. Commissioner Mike Whan and his team are working around the clock to try and secure a better schedule, but bottom line, the tour must play when and where sponsors want them to and sometimes that simply doesn’t fit into making the tour flow. This doesn’t look likely to change next season.

A second factor surely has to do with Tiger Woods. For most of 2010, the golf media was all Tiger all the time and other stories simply got forgotten. At the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first major of the season, a large number of golf writers departed on the eve of the final round; they had to be at Augusta National Golf Club in time for Tiger’s big comeback press conference. After a really close finish, where Pettersen barely missed a chip-in for a playoff with Tseng, an earthquake ensued, literally, during the champion’s press conference, but it barely registered on the media Richter scale.

Even the LPGA Tour Championship, one of two flagship events (the other being the LPGA Championship) owned and operated by the tour, is going up against Tiger’s event in California. Guess where all the media attention will be going. Thankfully for the tour, the event is in Orlando, a home-game for Golf Channel and some other publications, forcing the hand for news coverage. Thirdly, the tour has an abundance of foreign players, leaving many U.S. fans struggling to identify with the majority of leading players. This should not be an issue, and I hope it begins to dwindle in the future. Foreign players are not going anywhere. There are still great American players, three of which – Kerr, Creamer and Wie – could well be vying for No. 1 bragging rights for the foreseeable future.

Instead of worrying about the lack of Americans, the focus should be on the eight best players, almost half of which are American and the others, save one of maybe two, speak pretty good English. Other sports organizations have no shame in promoting just their top players. The burden rests partly on the shoulders of the LPGA but mostly on the player’s shoulders. Just get out there and be noticed.

Finally, television rights play a big role. I’m obviously a little biased in this view, but Golf Channel is a good partner for the tour. It’s a permanent home for the broadcasts with resources worldwide and a team of people who really enjoy the tour and care for the product. The problem is, not all the events are branded by Golf Channel. When the tour goes to Asia, Golf Channel simply airs a world feed without familiar commentators or the look of what you might expect from one of our broadcasts. With the Asian market bursting at the seams for LPGA events, the addition of tournaments in the Far East is a foregone conclusion for the next few seasons. A consistent look throughout the season breeds familiarity with the viewers. Sponsors are sometimes more concerned by hospitality rather than visibility. That’s great, but not for the long-term health of the overall product and certainly not for people like you and me who enjoy watching quality golf broadcasts on television.  

This week is the penultimate LPGA event of 2010 on U.S. soil, the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge, in Danville, Calif. It has already been announced that this particular sponsor is going to take their marketing dollars elsewhere next year. Tournament organizers will be looking for a new benefactor and I hope they find a good steady partner, but right now it would seem the odds are stacked against them. The overall product is strong. This is an unprecedented time for the tour; Judy Rankin and Beth Daniel, my colleagues in the both this season, say they cannot remember a time where this many players were vying to be the best on tour. The future is bright, but in order to reach those better times, much like the perfect golf shot, execution and a little luck is everything.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

“Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

“When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

“Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

“Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

“The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

“Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

Christina Kim:

LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

LPGA pro Jennie Lee: