Stick a fork in Annika? If so, can the LPGA move forward?

mulligan, 14 April 2007, Comments Off on Stick a fork in Annika? If so, can the LPGA move forward?
Categories: Annika, LPGA

With Annika Sorenstam now sidelined for a month with a bad back, there seems to be little doubt that her Tiger-like reign atop the LPGA is over. Truth is, as we discussed in this space, her true domination ended last year: she finished third on the 2006 money list, and it was pretty clear that players feared Lorena Ochoa as much or more than Annika (especially in the second half of the season). And, given her recent decline, her age (36) and her injury, the real question is whether Annika will ever be a dominant force again.

In men’s golf, most of the would-be challengers to Tiger have been older and are busy fighting their own ailments or demons. Even when besting Tiger one major or over a stretch of events, I do not think many seriously expected Phil or Vijay or Ernie or Retief to have a serious chance to take over the top spot in men’s golf for good.

In contrast, not only has Lorena Ochoa emerged as the real deal (she is winning again this weekend as I write this), but there are a number of other great young players shooting to reach the top. (I think Morgan Pressel may have the fire needed to be a great rival for Ochoa, but many other youngsters like Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome and Natalie Gulbis and even Michelle Wie have the potential to be a permanent force). This is one of many reasons I find the LPGA more exciting than the PGA these days.

I really hope that LPGA officials, together with appealing youngers like Ochoa and Pressel and Creamer, will recognize their potential to elevate women’s golf into a major player in the national sports landscape. Don Imus not withstanding, I doubt that women’s team sports will even be able to get anywhere close in popularity to men’s team sports. But tennis and ice skating show that, marketed right with good personalities and rivalries, individual women’s sports can have cross-over success. Annika (and Wie) have helped achieve some of this success by playing with the men, but I think the LPGA could (and should be trying) to get to the next level on its own.


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