DOES DOMINANCE MAKE GOLF MORE INTERESTING?
Updated: Nov 12, 2020
This article was originally published on June 26th, 2019.
This past weekend Australian Hannah Green (@hannahgreengolf) won her first major title, after holding off defending champion Park Sung-hyun to win the Women's PGA Championship.
The 114th ranked female golfer in the world, became the 11th different player to win the past 11 majors on the LPGA Tour. However, does this diversity make the sport less interesting, should golf's biggest events be dominated by elite players?
When we contrast the LPGA with the PGA event Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) is dominating, winning four of his last 10 majors. Koepka has finished in the top two in the past four define career-defining championships.
Koepka is increasingly becoming the focal point of the men's game. Outside of Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) and Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory), Koepka's will be the highest-attended news conference at this July's Open Championship at Royal Portrush, in Northern Ireland.
Tiger Woods will always command the biggest audience and McIlroy is the inevitable poster boy for a Northern Irish event. These players, along with Justin Rose (@JustinRose99), Francesco Molinari (@F_Molinari) and Jordan Spieth (@JordanSpieth), are able to generate the talking points for the men's tour to capture peoples interests.
However, similar to the current state of the women's tour, the men's game has gone through periods of multiple different major winners. Between Angel Cabrera's (@cabrera_pato) 2009 Masters victory and McIlroy's win in the 2012 PGA Championship, the men's tour saw 15 different major winners. McIlroy ended the sequence when he added to his 2011 US Open triumph.
During this period the men's tour appeared as though it was without direction. Tiger Woods' scandal of his extra-marital affairs left him struggling for fitness, which left a large hole for the rest of the tour to fill, as the tour failed to capture the imagination of viewers.
The absence of a leading character in the sport did however offer the opportunity for less familiar names, such as Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell (@Graeme_McDowell) and South African Louis Oosthuizen (@Louis57TM), to add their names to golf's roll of honor.
All of those one-off winners did manage to excite their local fanbases, in a similar way that Hannah Green's victory has done for Australia. A country that has been waiting for a victory at a women's since Karrie Webb won the 2006 Kraft Nabisco Championship.
In the current spell of different winners, four have come from the powerhouse of South Korea, there have been two American wins, two Swedish triumphs and victories to celebrate for Britain via Georgia Hall (@georgiahall96) and Thailand through Ariya Jutanugarn (@jutanugarn).
But who does the women's game promote as its lead character? Is it Lexi Thompson (@Lexi), despite the American not winning a major since the 2014 ANA Inspiration?
And how different might the LPGA Tour feel had Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) not been beset by such a miserable wrist injury? She is the same age as Koepka and was tipped to be the dominant figure of the women's game for generations.
Instead she has just five LPGA Tour wins to her name, including a lone major, the 2014 US Open. No-one can question her courage nor the immense promise she possessed when she first made the cut at a major at the age of 13.
Last week she launched her latest comeback and it ended in tears with rounds of 84-82. "I'm not entirely sure how much more I have left in me," Wie acknowledged mournfully.
She clearly wants to be on tour and competing once again. Were she to come back from this it would be one of the great sporting stories - akin to that of Woods' renaissance.
It is an entirely personal battle, but what a boost it would be for the women's game in general if she were to win it.
A well-known figure as such as Wie would be welcome among the less familiar names that currently populate leaderboards at the biggest tournaments.