I have been writing about the LPGA for quite some time now, but never has it been more enjoyable for me than it is now.
What has made this more enjoyable with each passing week, is that things have finally begun to change. There is no doubt that the LPGA in 2014 has reached new heights in popularity that hasn't been seen in many years.
- Attendance has been up both internationally and here at home.
- Television ratings have increased dramatically.
- Media coverage (newspapers, magazines) has increased.
Why this sudden turnaround? Here are what I think are the main reasons:
- First and foremost the LPGA now has a commissioner that has made a commitment to giving its fans the best product he could possibly put out there. He also seems to have a knack of hiring the right people for the right jobs, and because of this he has gotten the results that have led to this turnaround.
- With 32 tournaments now on the schedule (there were just 23 a few short years ago), fans don't have to wait through long breaks that potentially decreases interest.
- Television coverage has increased to where over 350 hours will be broadcasted in 2014.
- The "Race to the CME Globe", and its 1 million dollar first prize has generated interest similar to what the FedEx cup is for the PGA.
- With 21 tournaments in North America, and tournaments in Asia, Europe, Australia, and Mexico, the LPGA now has fans all around the world.
- This may be my favorite reason for the big surge in 2014. In recent weeks we have seen victories by hugely popular players such as Paula Creamer, Lydia Ko, Michelle Wie, Stacy Lewis, and Lexi Thompson.
I was very satisfied with my above reasoning until I got an e-mail from a dear friend who wrote "I do feel the media has focused on the women more because Tiger is not in the equation."
Hmmm. I never really thought about that. Has Tiger's absence from the PGA brought more fans over to the LPGA? The e-mail went on to say (referring to the media), "I hope their mind set will continue with women's golf when he is back playing. Time will tell."
Well that is certainly food for thought, so I went on some of the golf forums around the world. I asked people who were new fans of the LPGA to tell my why. I went to forums in the US, Canada, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, and mainland China.
I was surprised that the most popular answer I got was that the PGA is suddenly very boring and the LPGA has been a pleasantly surprising alternative. Most elaborated even further saying that they were surprised at the high quality of the women's game.
So what conclusions can we draw from the above?
I still think that all my reasons listed above are very valid and have contributed to the LPGA's resurgence. Those reasons will continue to draw more and more people to the LPGA.
Will things change when Tiger returns? I think only to a certain extent. Yes, people will still want to see what Tiger is doing whether they love him or hate him. But the key here is that the "Tiger effect" was a positive one. The new fans that came over in Tiger's absence enjoyed what they have seen and are not just going to abandon the LPGA.
Tiger or no Tiger, the LPGA is here to stay. I see it growing more and more in the coming years.