LPGA Can't Be Fixed Without Right Players Winning
CNBC Sports Business Reporter
Carolyn Bivens certainly wasn’t the greatest commissioner in the world. Far from it. But to blame her for the LPGA's biggest problems is misleading.
Sure, events are disappearing from the tour’s schedule after sponsors haven’t re-signed and it’s all been under her reign, but her interim successor, Marsha Evans, isn’t going to do much better if the right people don’t win.
As we've seen with Tiger Woods, parity in golf is not good. Stars have to win. And when they don't, other big names need to come through.
People outside the sport will remember Bivens most for her blown idea of forcing foreign golfers to speak English. While she got bashed for it –- and it obviously was a politically incorrect thing to do –- there was something to the underlying message. Good American golfers that we've been told to love, haven't won and that's one of the reasons why women’s golf is so unwatchable today.
Paula Creamer has been pretty consistent, but not enough. Even though the world wants to embrace her –- Yahoo reports searches for her were up 6000 percent over this weekend –- she hasn’t won a major.
Michelle Wie, who was supposed to have won PGA Tour events by now still hasn’t hoisted an LPGA trophy. She didn’t even qualify to be in the field in last week’s US Open.
Neither did Natalie Gulbis, who has been playing professionally for 7 ½ years and has a single victory. Morgan Pressel? She hasn't won enough either for anyone to hunker down in front of their TV on Sunday afternoon, confident that they'll see her in the hunt.
Meanwhile, the Koreans continue to pick up the hardware, winning six of 16 tournaments this year. For the record, it still wouldn't be good for the game if all of them spoke perfect English. But the press here have no interest in telling their stories. And the editors at Maxim and FHM aren't knocking down their doors for spreads.
That's the number one reason why sponsors don't want to come back. They don't get the eyeballs. Sports marketers at these organizations can't justify putting their name on tournaments.
Look at the ratings, where final rounds are drawing about 500,000 viewers on ESPN2 this year. That’s if they’re lucky. The final round of the State Farm Classic last month pulled in 324,000 viewers. More than four times that audience watched the Hot Dog Eating Contest on ESPN on July 4th. Is the event unique? Yes. But should it outrate a professional sporting event on a legitimate network by that much? Of course not.
Marsha Evans would have it good if she were Vince McMahon right now. She could tell the players who needs to win each week to ensure future success. Short of the right people winning, the LPGA just doesn’t have a future as a big time sport.
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