We’re privileged and excited to be co-hosting a Google Hangout featuring 21 year-old (and already) 2x LPGA Tour winner Jessica Korda this evening at 7:15 pm EST. To help us prepare, we took a dive into the current LPGA season to see what’s shaking. Below are some quick insights and opinions; stop by and ask Jessica about any of this, along with specific inquiries about her game, her goals, and anything else you’ve ever wondered about concerning the LPGA.
- The Race to the CME Globe (CME stands for Chicago Mercantile Exchange – think Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) is heating up early in the year. Paula Creamer (921 pts) currently holds a small lead over veteran Karrie Webb (742 pts) and NLU favorite (our loyalty is easily acquired!) Jessica Korda (587). Creamer is leading thanks in large part to her recent victory at the HSBC Women’s Champions event in Singapore. She earned the win with what is easily the highlight of the year: canning a monstrous, snaking 75-foot eagle putt on the 2nd playoff hole with her competitor, Azahara Munoz, already in for birdie. Walk-off wins don’t get any more exhilarating than that (yeah, we see you back there objecting, Craig Parry)!
- Speaking of the Race to the CME Globe, the LPGA season will hold its 5th tournament of the year this weekend as they contest the JTBC Founders Cup in Tempe, Arizona. It’s one of 32 worldwide events leading up to the CME Group Tour Championship this November in Naples, FL. Whereas the PGA Tour is now on the reach-around schedule and thus stealthily deep into their current season, the LPGA season is still in its infancy with an exciting year ahead. Recognizing the truly global nature of their tour, LPGA leadership continues to do an exceptional job of making it a true world tour (Finchy and his cronies need to take note and apply lessons learned to the shamefully domestic “World” Golf Championships). We’d also be remiss in neglecting to give a shout-out to the two head honchos at LPGA HQ – Mike Whan and Jon Podany, who (like three of us here at NLU) are Miami University (the one in Ohio!) alums. The LPGA seems to be on a really nice “traj.”
- The guest of honor in tonight’s Google Hangout, Jessica Korda, sits 3rd at the moment in the season-long CME race. She captured the season-opening event, the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, by one stroke over Stacy Lewis with a 72-hole score of -19 (273). It was Korda’s second career LPGA victory. The most impressive stat concerning Korda in our opinion, though? She hasn’t missed a cut since September 2012. That’s a span of 30 tournaments. We may have to ask Jessica what she tells people she does for living, professional golfer or pro check-casher – Bill Haas isn’t the only member FDIC anymore…impressive.
- Of the top-50 women in the Rolex Rankings (basically the women’s OWGR), more than half (27) are from Japan, China, Thailand, or Korea (that also includes Tapei, where world #1, Inbee Park, hails from). Park, in fact, holds a fairly comfortable lead for #1 over Suzann Pettersen at the moment, though we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Suzann (and her Physio) have run away and hid from the competition in the Most Physically Fit Rankings.
- But back to the world rankings, and specifically the amount of world-class talent across the Pacific – we wonder if there is internal discussion to developing a Solheim-style contest (read Ryder Cup for the unwashed and uninformed) that pits the US vs. Asia? This seems like a no-brainer for the LPGA powers-that-be as they think about how to grow the tour’s popularity, carve our their own global footprint, and market an impressively diverse roster of talent. We’ll be sure to ask ‘ko-host’ on today’s Hangout, former Golf Channel impresario Kraig Kann. “Special K” moved over to LPGA back in 2011 as the Chief Communications Officer and basically oversees the growth strategy for the Tour at home and abroad.
- Perhaps you know the name Lydia Ko. If so, and even if not, allow us to briefly inform you. This from her Wiki page–the 16 year-old New Zealander (she’ll be 17 in April) made huge waves last summer, when, still an amateur, she won two LPGA events (she didn’t miss a freaking cut in 25 events as an amateur!). She turned pro last October and currently sits 4th in the Rolex Rankings. In fact, she has such promise, the LPGA waived their age-18 requirement for membership.
- One topic we’re really curious to hear Jessica riff on tonight, is the coupling of the Men’s and Women’s US Opens this year at Pinehurst. We at NLU think it’s a fantastic idea. Personally, I have to admit I haven’t been the most ardent follower of the LPGA, so this type of creative thinking definitely is meant to pull people exactly like me into the women’s event. Watching each event and being able to look at the other as a reference point will be amazing (especially if the USGA keeps the conditions as similar as possible, save for length). The event is still a few months out but I can confidently say that it’s mission accomplished (unfurl that banner!). There are grumblings about how the course condition will be for the ladies after a full week of play, logistical concerns regarding everything from lodging and grandstand setups to practice availability and what happens if there’s a need for a men’s 18-hole playoff on Monday. While these are all legit questions and I’m curious to see how they’re handled by the suits over at USGA HQ (concerns are probably overblown – the logistical “nightmare” at Merion last year and a couple years ago at Kiawah were both smooth). Geoff Shackelford, among others, pointed out that really the women should be playing first in order to boost galleries, etc. etc. which does seems ideal. Maybe that’s what will eventually happen. Perhaps too someday there will be more dual/piggy-back events between the LPGA and PGA. I know I’d love to see the women take on familiar tracks like Doral, Muirfield Village, Pebble and Torrey each year.
- In that same vein, we’re curious as to what Jessica’s favorite tracks are on the LPGA circuit. Would love to know which courses she’d love to see the tour visit in the future, too. Since the women play from about 6,500 yards it would be refreshing to see events being held at venues that are either obsolete in the world of men’s professional golf (Cypress comes to mind – we can dream right?) or aren’t in the rotation due to logistics concerns (Royal Portrush for the Women’s British Open comes to mind).
Get involved in the Google Hangout tonight and leave some questions in the comments below!