LPGA Enjoying Unprecedented Parity In Past Several Seasons
The LPGA is in the midst of a level of "parity not seen on the circuit since the early 1990s," as there have been "at least 18 different winners for four seasons running," according to Jeff Shain of the N.Y. TIMES. There have been 20 different winners of the 25 events so far this year, and the past 14 majors have been "captured by 12 different players, including 11 in a row" since the start of the '16 season. Golf Channel's Kay Cockerill said the parity shows the tour's "ever-gaining depth." Cockerill: "I like the fact that you see proven winners keep popping up every so often, and then brand-new winners like Annie Park and Pernilla Lindberg. ... It keeps it exciting.” Shain notes the LPGA this season has had "seven first-time winners," and since the beginning of '16 has "crowned 40 different winners in 91 tournaments." Lydia Ko had "showed signs of becoming the LPGA's next megastar by winning 14 times as a teenager," but she has "just one since turning 20" in April '17. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said, "I would rather have a bunch of players at the top, in a perfect world, from a bunch of different countries. That engages fans all around the world.” Whan also said that "having one powerhouse star has a tendency to downgrade any event they don’t play" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/12).
THE FRENCH CONNECTION: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Randall Mell noted the Evian Championship tees off tomorrow in France, and "since Whan unilaterally declared" it a major in '13 and moved it to September, there has been "something of a meteorological curse on the event." Rain has caused two of the first five championships played as a major to be "controversially shortened to 54 holes." The weather issues have "brought scrutiny over the LPGA’s priorities in the governance of its majors, and whether the decision to upgrade Evian was more about creating a major showcase" for Paris-based food-products corporation Group Danone, which owns Evian, than "creating a major championship." That is why "so many players were excited when Whan announced that Evian will be returning to July next year, the spot it held on the calendar before it was declared a major" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 9/11). In N.Y., Graham Parker notes Whan "sees the long-term ambition of the Evian Championship as part of what will capture the imagination of players, fans and sponsors." With its new July home and changes to the PGA Tour schedule, Evian "will still be the last major of the year." The LPGA schedule will now "include the Scottish Open, British Open and Evian in rapid succession, with plans for a fourth event to add to that sequence" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/12).