Americans stand out early in LPGA schedule

WEST DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 18: Danielle Kang and Michelle Wie of the United States leaves the ninth tee during the afternoon four-ball matches of the Solheim Cup at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club on August 18, 2017 in West Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Harry How/Getty Images

Americans stand out early in LPGA schedule

Digital Edition

Americans stand out early in LPGA schedule

The LPGA is American-made. Thirteen American women founded the tour in 1950, and it grew to worldwide prominence on the backs of American stars. The tour headquarters are in Daytona Beach, Fla., and of the 280 active LPGA playing professionals, 157 are Americans.\

Because of these facts, American fans will always, always care about the number of times American players win each season. Yes, it’s a global tour with 13 of 33 official events played outside North America. And yes, there’s been an explosion of talent around the world in the women’s game. But that doesn’t mean fans will excuse American players for winning only a handful of times per year.

To that end, so far so good in 2018. As the LPGA heads to its first domestic stop, the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Phoenix, Ariz., Americans have won three of four tournaments, with the LPGA’s biggest needle-mover, superstar Michelle Wie, ending a drought that dated to the summer of 2014. Americans haven’t enjoyed such a stirring start since 2007.

“I think we’re definitely on the rise,” Wie said. “I think from Solheim play last year, you can definitely see the strength of our American players.”

The about-face in team competition has been significant. After losing back-to-back Solheim Cups in 2011 and 2013, U.S. captain Juli Inkster led the red, white and-blue to consecutive Ws. Then, after a shut-out in singles play at the hands of the South Koreans at the inaugural UL International Crown, Team USA won it all in 2016.

SINGAPORE - MARCH 04: Michelle Wie of the United States of America wins the 2018 HSBC Women's World Championship at Sentosa Golf Club on March 4, 2018 in Singapore. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

Michelle Wie was pumped after her victory at the Women’s World Championship in Singapore earlier this month. (Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

While team storylines certainly help write the narrative on the state of American golf, individual victories create the stars.

Only twice in the past decade have Americans reached double-digit wins: 2008 (10) and 2014 (13). Americans won only four times in 2010 and 2011, and only twice in 2016.

Last season, U.S. players claimed seven titles, including one major (Danielle Kang, KPMG Women’s PGA Championship). It might have seemed like more because Lexi Thompson finished runner-up six times.

It’s early in 2018, but the results are promising. Brittany Lincicome provided an usually intriguing finish in the dark at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, and six other Americans finished in the top 11. In Thailand, Jessica Korda scripted a riveting comeback story from jaw surgery and brought six Americans along with her in the top 15. And in Singapore, Wie’s bombshell birdie capped off a smoking Sunday that saw five Americans in the top 10.

Thompson is a mere 0.08 points behind China’s Shanshan Feng in the Rolex World Rankings. The 2017 Vare Trophy winner is one of four Americans in the top seven in scoring, with Korda atop the list.

South Korean rookie Jin Young Ko leads the money race, but six Americans are in the top 10, including sisters Jessica (No. 3) and Nelly Korda (No. 10). So far in 2018, 122 players have cashed a check, and 45 of them are Americans. The odds aren’t in the Americans’ favor, yet they’re mounting a charge.

Golf Channel reports that ratings in Thailand, where Jessica Korda won, were up 11 percent year-over-year despite being opposite the Winter Olympics. Ratings for the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Rounds 1 and 3 were the highest for this event in five years. Sunday afternoon’s final-round replay of Wie’s victory was seen by an average of 250,000 viewers, which is roughly equivalent to a live domestic event in the same time block.

Anticipation for this year’s action was high from the start: Round 1 of the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic was the second-most watched opening day of the LPGA season on record for Golf Channel (2006-18).

There’s a feeling in the air, a buzz about the stars aligning in 2018, with the American women leading the way. Gwk


More Digital Edition