LPGA never runs out of optimism


I've got this friend – let's call him Chipper, since the name fits – who has an uncanny ability to remain eternally optimistic even though nothing ever happens in his life that should warrant actual optimism.

It's always either, 'Yeah, I got dumped, but there are plenty of other fish in the sea!' or 'I was passed over for that promotion, but I don't think I'm management material anyway!' or even 'I couldn't afford my apartment anymore, but moving back in with Mom and Dad should be fun!'

Admit it: You know someone like Chipper, too. Everyone does. Poor guy has never had a glass half-empty. It’s not even half-full. Instead, it’s half-open to all the great opportunities this world has to offer!!! And yes, he’s always a three-exclamation point kind of guy.

Chipper should be sponsored by Timex. Just like the watch company’s old slogan, he takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'.

What does this have to do with golf? Simple. The LPGA is golf's version of Chipper.

Just look at the last two weeks as perfect examples.

At the Kingsmill Championship, the tour had an opportunity to capitalize on a rabid golf fan base that was jonesing for more drama after witnessing Rory McIlroy’s triumph over a BMW Championship leaderboard that included Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood.

When those fans collectively flipped over to the apparent conclusion of the ladies’ event, they were treated to a playoff duel between two of the game’s best players in Jiyai Shin and Paula Creamer. What they received was a live rendition of Groundhog Day, with the competitors playing the same hole with the same hole location eight different times.

It’s difficult to fault the LPGA for the format. Playoffs aren’t supposed to last that long. It’s easier to fault the tour for the dramedy that occurred at day’s end, with Creamer trying to make a decision, Shin interminably noncommittal and nary an official to make a final ruling.

When they came back the next day, rather than bemoan an untraditional finish the LPGA did its best Chipper impersonation, declaring it a great thing that two of their best had the Monday morning stage all to themselves before Shin prevailed on the ninth extra hole.

This week’s Women’s British Open continued the trend, playing out like an old blues tune. ”If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all…”

The spotlight squarely affixed to the year’s final major with the PGA Tour on a bye week, instead the tournament was marred by poor weather and intriguing rulings.

After much of the early wave had already teed off in what was subsequently deemed unplayable conditions on Friday morning, little-known Rule 33-2d was invoked by the Ladies’ Golf Union – though it’s an LPGA co-sanctioned event, it is not run by the tour – which rendered those scores . The rest of the day was washed out, with players returning for the second round on Saturday, then only 50 making the 36-hole cut, with the final 36 holes all contested on Sunday.

It’s almost hard to believe a player named Murphy has been lighting up the leaderboards, considering the LPGA lives at the pedestal of Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Maybe that’s just par for the course in the world’s only sport where the no-doubt-about-it best player in the world retired right in the middle of her prime, giving way to the next no-doubt-about-it best player in the world – only to have her do the exact same thing.

And yet, at Royal Liverpool once again optimism prevailed – and once again, so did Shin, by a whopping nine strokes.

It may not have been the perfect payoff for the women’s game, but domination can win fans and influence people just as much as – if not more so than – a packed leaderboard. (Exhibit 1A and 1B: Tiger Woods at the 1997 Masters and 2000 U.S. Open; Exhibit 2A and 2B: Rory McIlroy at the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship.) In rainy, blustery and by the end, increasingly dark conditions, Shin finished the marathon week as the lone player under par with nobody else within a smashed 3-wood of her on the scoreboard.

Consider it just another sign that perseverance pays. Not just for Shin, whose two victories in seven days were her first in two years. But for the women’s game as a whole.

Too often left holding a glass half-full and hoping to add to it, that optimism was rewarded when the week was completed. It may not have been according to the blueprint, but going off script is becoming the new normal.

Hey, I know one person who was watching this week and never gave up hope that the conclusion would pay dividends. That’s right – Chipper was watching the entire event unfold with usual optimism. And why not? It was pretty cool of his Mom and Dad to let him have control of the TV.