Must-See LPGA Tour TV


You like cliff hangers, don’t you?

Drama that plays out to the final scene, right?

Not if you’re like most people who watch televised golf.

Golf viewers aren’t like most sports fans, who turn the channel when a game becomes a rout. It’s a peculiar phenomenon, but golf viewers prefer it when dominant players run up the score. How else do you explain the boffo TV ratings Tiger Woods brought in his 15-shot U.S. Open victory at Pebble Beach in 2000 and his 12-shot rout at the Masters in ’97? When he wins big, the ratings are big.

In an Arnold Palmer story on this site last week, retired CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian said golf’s always been that way. He learned quickly directing golf broadcasts that viewers don’t like Cinderella stories. They want the stars to win, period.

If that’s really the case, this LPGA season is indifferent, at best.
Cristie Kerr Michelob Ultra Open
Cristie Kerr's only victory in 2009 came at the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Virgina. (Getty Images)

For just the second time this century, fall arrives without a player having already locked up the LPGA Player of the Year title. The last time September ended with any doubt about who would win the honor was three years ago, when Lorena Ochoa distanced herself from Annika Sorenstam with three titles in the last seven weeks of the season.

The Samsung World Championship began Thursday with the Rolex Player of the Year race wide open. Nobody’s dominating this season with Ochoa off her best form. With seven events left in the year, a hot player can come out of nowhere and steal the award.

In my book, that makes for a potentially compelling finish, to heck with the lack of dominance.

There are some potentially good storylines playing out. Cristie Kerr is trying to become the first American to win Player of the Year since Beth Daniel won it in 1994. Jiyai Shin is trying to become the first South Korean ever to win the honor. If Shin wins, it’s an exclamation point on South Korea’s rise to dominance.

The race is so wide open, American Paula Creamer is winless this season but could still be Rolex Player of the Year. She’s the defending champion at Samsung, which also happens to be her last LPGA victory. Given the stomach ailments and injuries she has endured this season, it would make for a terrific story if she went on a tear and won the PoY award.

Shin leads the Player of the Year points race. She has three victories this season. Ochoa has won twice in ’09, so has Catriona Matthew, if you count the HSBC Brasil Cup, which featured just a 14-player field. Matthew also won the Ricoh Women’s British Open. Nobody else has won more than one event.

Kerr was atop the Player of the Year points list until getting bumped off when Shin won the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship last week. Kerr would relish breaking the American PoY drought.

“We have got to try and get it done,” Kerr said in the Samsung interview room this week. “It's for American golf.  It inspires all of the little girls out there to play golf. It's bigger than us. It's a very selfish personal goal that I want to accomplish for me, but at the same time, it's a bigger thing for women's golf and American golf to try to make it happen.”

There would be irony in an American winning PoY. With 12 consecutive events having passed since an American last won, there’s a growing focus on this country’s struggles on the tour. Americans have won just four events this year.

Kerr was the last American to win this season. That was four months and seven days ago – at the Michelob Ultra Open in May.

“Player of the Year and all of that stuff this year is very important to me,” Kerr said. “I have contended the whole year for it. There are very few events left, and I know that I've got to play my very best golf that I played this year to be able to attain that. So that's kind of where I'm at. I want to do those things. I want them more than anything.”

The PGA Tour season could end with some drama next week at the Tour Championship. As for the LPGA, however, the drama may be just beginning.