The LPGA always creates enthusiasm for big events – at least among the spectators.
And that is the problem with the women’s golf tour. From week to week, regular events on the LPGA draw lower ratings than PGA Tour events. The LPGA’s biggest proponents will complain that women’s play is not getting the best viewing time and is even relegated to tape-delayed broadcasts to make room for coverage of the PGA tour.
The LPGA also plays a lot of overseas events, and that means that live broadcasts happen in the middle of the night for most Americans. The women’s game barely has a network time slot, while the PGA Tour runs on the network every week between February and September.
But when the LPGA and women’s golf in general have a chance to shine on par with the men, the LPGA looks pretty good. This is what happened at the Summer Olympics.
The men’s competition might have had the drama with Japanese Hideki Matsuyama in a seven-man playoff for the bronze medal in his home country and a good story with gold medalist Xander Schaffele, but the women’s competition a few days later matched the men in terms of drama and storylines.
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World number 1, Nelly Korda, ran away with the title, then had to fight on the final 18 holes to claim victory. Non-LPGA Japanese Mone Inami defeated Lydia Ko in a silver and bronze playoff, and Indian Aditi Ashok was perhaps the most inspirational golfer in the Olympics when he finished fourth but a shot from a medal did well enough to get a call from the President of India on Twitter.
So the Olympic Games were a great success for women’s golf. But like every time women’s football has a big moment, the challenge is to build on the momentum. How can the LPGA, Ladies European Tour, JLPGA and other tours take what the world saw at the Olympics and get people to watch regularly?
Part of the problem with golf in the Olympics is that it doesn’t feel that Olympic. It feels like 72 holes of stroke play, and that’s what the pros play every week anyway. But because it’s the Olympics, people like Ashok have been able to inspire their home nation in ways that a regular LPGA or LET event might not.
In search of the drama of Tokyo
Following the Olympics, the LPGA and LET are playing a jointly sanctioned event in Scotland this week, the Women’s Scottish Open. Again, due to the time difference, fans of the West Coast LPGA had to get up early in the morning to watch the event live. Next week’s event is a big one, the AIG Women’s Open, also in Scotland, so the same time difference will cause the same problems.
However, despite the time difference, the Women’s Scottish Open has produced strong play from household names like Ariya Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and defending champion Stacy Lewis. The AIG Women’s Open will have a stronger field, including Korda, Jin Young Ko, and others who chose not to compete in the Women’s Scottish Open right after the Olympics.
Two weeks after the AIG Women’s Open, the Solheim Cup will take place in Inverness, Toledo, Ohio this year. This is another showcase for the LPGA, with LPGA members playing on both the US and European teams. Here, too, the LPGA will be able to use the Solheim Cup as a showcase for players like the Korda sisters Lexi Thompson and Danielle Kang.
So it’s a full month of great opportunities for LPGA, LET, and women’s golf. The Olympics demonstrated that women’s pros can create drama and tension just like men. The Solheim Cup will provide a showcase for the women golfers before the men play in the Ryder Cup matches in Wisconsin in September.
It’s a perfect time to pay attention to women’s golf, and perhaps the perfect time to build up some swing.
Larry Bohannan is the golf writer for The Desert Sun. He can be reached at email@example.com or (760) 778-4633. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @larry_Bohannan. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Desert Sun.