Check out the LPGA

You may not have noticed, and chances are you didn’t, but the LPGA returned to action last week for the first time since mid-February (you didn’t have the Drive On Championship circled on your calendar?). If you did miss it, shame on you! Danielle Kang outlasted Celine Boutier in what became an exciting head-to-head matchup on the back nine. There was lots of clutch shot-making on a soft Inverness (Toledo, OH) course that was playing up to its history as a tough major championship site (only 5 players broke par for the week). The tournament definitely had a heightened intensity despite having no fans on the course.

Actually, based on the TV ratings for the tournament, there were apparently no fans watching at home either: the final round telecast on Golf Channel didn’t make the top 150 shows for last Sunday. There were apparently more viewers of an infomercial on USA Network at 7 am (is the Flo-Bee back?), but perhaps it wasn’t the best strategy to go head-to-head with the PGA Tour WGC event (which drew 3.2 million viewers). 

I’m a guy who used to look forward to watching the professional putting tour on TV. If it involves sticks and balls, I’ll watch it. Wait, that came out wrong. Anyway, here are my reasons why you should care about the LPGA…

Exciting Finishes
If you watch the PGA Tour because of the exciting finishes almost every week, you should be watching the LPGA Tour. I looked at the margin of victory for the last 20 events on both tours, and here were the results:

So when you tune in to an LPGA event on Sunday, chances are you’re probably going to see some good drama. 

Great Swings
If Brandel Chamblee says Ann van Dam has one of the best swings in the game, we should all take note. In general, LPGA players rely more on smooth tempo than vicious swipes at it, and that’s something we could all benefit from.  

More relatable games
Much has been written (including by us!) about Bryson’s amazing distance gains, and while that circus sideshow is entertaining, most of us can learn more about course management watching LPGA players who hit it more relatable distances. The median LPGA driving distance of the top 100 players for that stat this year is 258.5, and five years ago it was 257.2. So while the median distance has improved over that time, it hasn’t been as dramatic as the PGA Tour, where the median distance of the top 100 has improved from 295.5 to 301.9.

The course setups on the LPGA tour are usually in the 6,500 to 6,800 range, so they’re typically hitting mid to long irons in on the longer par 3s and 4s – like most of us. The “bomb and gouge” approach on the PGA Tour might get a lot of attention, but if you’re looking for a demonstration of how to score hitting it more “normal” distances, watch the LPGA Tour.  

Interesting Personalities
The PGA Tour has some big personalities like Bryson, Phil, Jordan, and Tiger. I think there are equally interesting people on the LPGA tour like Lydia (Ko), Nelly (Korda), Danielle (Kang), and Brooke (Henderson). Granted, there aren’t the same larger than life people on the LPGA Tour compared to the PGA Tour, but much of that is driven by less media coverage. 

The LPGA could help themselves a lot by making their players better known to fans. The most popular player from the past generation was Natalie Gulbis, who wasn’t shy about using her looks to generate attention:

Today’s generation knows that social media is key to building one’s brand. Probably the best example of this is Muni (Lily) He, who was medalist at the LPGA qualifying tournament last year, and had over 300,000 Instagram followers before hitting her first shot as an LPGA member. She tends to post a lot of bikini shots that feel gratuitous, and that shouldn’t be the expectation of the average LPGA player in order to get known. Hopefully her game generates as much interest over time as her looks. 

Great Courses
The LPGA used to play decent courses that were known regionally, but in the last few years they’ve smartly made an effort to play more internationally-known courses. This year, the majors are being played at Royal Troon (Women’s British Open), Aronimink (Women’s PGA Championship), Champions Golf Club (Women’s US Open) and making the annual stop at Mission Hills for the ANA Inspiration. The LPGA Tour also has more of an international feel than the PGA Tour, stopping in Australia, Asia, and Europe.  

Your homework is to check out the Marathon LPGA Classic this weekend and report back in the comments!

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