Thursday, June 26, 2008

Does Tiger's Injury Present the LPGA with an Opportunity?

Dan O'Neill writes for the St Louis Post-Dispatch and offers a column that responds to the question with a decisive maybe.

First, the no way:

The idea that media outlets might funnel monies earmarked for covering Woods toward covering the women is a leap.

"Not a chance in hell," said Len Shapiro, a longtime golf writer for the Washington Post. "I don't think more people will gravitate to the LPGA because of (Woods' absence). But there are very compelling stories out here, including (Annika) Sorenstam's last year, (Lorena) Ochoa becoming the Tiger of her own tour and Michelle Wie mounting a comeback from her disastrous 2007."

The core audiences for the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour are far from identical. With a thick roster of Asian and European players, the LPGA's market has a distinctly global character. With or without the presence of Woods, the picture frame for the women has been steadily expanding. In fact, Sorenstam sees no correlation between Woods' circumstances and LPGA prospects.

"When it comes to the LPGA, ... — we don't compete against Tiger by any means," Sorenstam said. "I think we stand on our own legs and we have some great golfers out here, and in our own tournaments. I would hope that the interest would be there whether Tiger is playing or not."
Then, the cheerier, "Hey, we're getting more exposure anyway, so this just may help" part:
[Connie] Wilson agreed the LPGA has enjoyed a modest but discernible increase in exposure over the last three years. She saw it in last Sunday's New York Times, which featured a sports-cover feature on LPGA star Ochoa. She saw it in Time Magazine's recent listing of Ochoa among its "100 most influential" people.

She sees it in this year's 46 percent hike in viewership of the LPGA on ESPN2 and 7 percent rise on network television.
And then Lorena takes a stand and says that perhaps it is possible:
"I think it's a good opportunity for us to get more fans so they can really see what we are all about," said Ochoa, 26. "There are still people out there that ... they don't believe we have the game, or the shots, or the excitement.

"I think (with Woods out), they turn their TVs to women's golf and they will find us."

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