by Jeff Skinner
As Dorothy said as she clicked her heels in The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.” And that’s very true this week for the American women of the LPGA Tour as they open their domestic season in Phoenix at The RR Donnelley Founders Cup.
After starting their season with three events in Australia, Thailand and Singapore the Americans are surely happy to give their passports a rest and start what could be a bellwether season for the LPGA Tour.
Last year in a desperate attempt to get his ladies on the course and playing Commissioner Michael Whan added the Founders Cup only there was no actual money awarded to the players. Donations were made to charity in the name of the tour. It was a novel idea and not well received by all the players but this year Whan’s foresight has paid off as real cash will be awarded to the tune of a $1.5 million purse.
The first three tournaments of the year may be a microcosm of the LPGA season to come. A youngster, Jessica Korda won the first event. A veteran American, Angela Stanford took the second event and the world’s best professional golfer, Yani Tseng won in Singapore. That’s a formula for a successful season on the LPGA: young phenoms, established Americans and the world’s best.
Karrie Webb is back to defend her title against some of the most intriguing golfers on the LPGA. Cristie Kerr leads the American contingent with Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome, Morgan Pressel and Stanford. Tseng leads the pack of foreign golfers that includes, Suzann Pettersen, Na Yeon Choi, and Jiyai Shin.
The golfer who can truly change the LPGA is also in the field and that’s seventeen year old Lexi Thompson. With two worldwide wins already and a game that no teenager has ever had, she is the new hope of the LPGA. Whan and his team are quick to say that they do not want to play off Lexi’s celebrity so as not to put added pressure but its impossible not to. Thompson’s game, personality, looks and maturity screams “Superstar” or at least superstar in the making. She can bring new fans to the tour and the tour sorely needs that.
The RR Donnelley Founders Cup was a stop gap fix for Whan and the LPGA last season. Now with a brilliant field, a real purse and some much deserved hype it could be the start of a potentially significant season for the LPGA Tour