Is Nelly Korda the new face of the LPGA?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Nelly Korda won the KPMG Championship on Sunday for her first major title and with the win became the #1 player in the world. Is this the shot in the arm American golf fans need to embrace the LPGA?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): A pretty, tall, slender, perky blonde young lady at the top of the golf world?  Cynical as it may seem, if that doesn’t fire up American golf fans, I don’t know what will.  Nelly is having one helluva season.   As I’ve said before, I’d rather watch LPGA events than most PGA tournaments.  I can’t understand why I’m in such a minority.  As for the KPMG Championship, I do think it was a bit of an embarrassment that Nelly was -21 at one point.  Way too easy a setup for a major event.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Nelly is absolutely playing the best on the Woman’s Tour right now, she played splendidly at the KPMG. Does this spark golf fan-ship in America, it sure could. Timing is right, with the woman’s movement. I’ve been a fan for a long time, the product is good, maybe a little too cluttered at the top. It’s been a while since we’ve had an absolute superstar dominate the woman’s game, or a good one/two rivalry. One superstar might catch the attention (golfs version of Serena Williams) right now. But the top 10 are so good they keep jockeying on the #1 position. Oh Nelly, she could be that super star player.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: We were introduced to Mollie Marcoux Samaan during the telecast. She is the incoming new Commissioner of the LPGA TOUR and while Korda’s victory is a nice place to start she isn’t Tiger Woods. Marcoux Samaan has a lot of great pieces to the puzzle in place excerpt for media recognition. Last week at Torrey Pines saw a collection of the finest commentators of our time converge at one place, at one time. The event in Atlanta on the weekend featured not one significant announcer, reporter, or media personality. Until the media ‘buys in’ nothing will change.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Absolutely, and a long time coming.  She’s been the class of the tour this year and deserves her No 1 ranking.  Let’s hope the tour does a good job of marketing Nelly and her sister, and it helps to grow the game in North America.  Great opportunity for Mollie Marcoux Samaan as she takes over the reins for the LPGA.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I suppose if American golf fans need an excuse to watch the LPGA, this is the best one they’ll get. The LPGA, sponsors and the American media tried mightily to turn first Michelle Wie, then Lexi Thompson into their standard bearer but neither was able to generate significant interest. Nelly comes pre-packaged as a sister act, so fans could be in for golf’s version of the Williams sisters. If Nelly and Jessica achieve anything close to what Serena and Venus Williams did in tennis, then it will be impossible not to watch.

Maria Fassi received a two-shot penalty for slow play during the second round of the KPMG Championship, which resulted in her missing the cut. It seems that the few slow play penalties assessed by the LPGA, or the PGA Tour have all involved players not in contention, usually in the first or second round, when the worst offenders are often found in the lead on Sunday. Are the Tours offering a token response to appease those calling for a crackdown on slow play or is this enough to get all the turtles moving a bit faster?

Deeks: I doubt that these penalties have any effect on anybody, including those who get assessed.  It’s like, does get a speeding ticket on the highway slow you down at all?  Maybe for five miles or five minutes, then you’re back to 125/hr.  I don’t think they should stop assessing penalties, however.  Slow play annoys spectators, viewers, and other players, and it’s completely unnecessary.

Loughry: I’d like to think the Tour is completely unbiased when assessing these penalties, but history shows they pick their spots. Honestly, she did take 50 seconds to pull the trigger from 180 yards out, 20 seconds longer than allotted. The Tours would be doing the game a favour by just applying the penalties as prescribed, no matter the situation. But I get it, there’s a lot of money involved, and the Tours certainly don’t want to be the centre of attention.

Schurman: Golf isn’t race! It is a game that requires thought and preparation for every shot and every shot has significant implications regarding points, money, playing status, qualifying, etc. In most cases, a player’s career covers many highs and lows. It’s a good life for some and quite long but getting to the top and staying there is difficult. So, when a player is riding a high, he/she takes time to perform at their best. However, consideration for other players, fans, and TV coverage deserves respect at the same time. All the necessary rules are in place. Enforce them in every event on every shot regardless of the situation. Maybe it’s time for a time clock.

Rule: It’s certainly not enough to get players moving, it’s the first such penalty in how long?  I appreciate that they did penalize someone in a major, but until something is done with the lead groups, nothing is going to change.  And let’s be honest, it would be near impossible to penalize someone in contention on Sunday.

Mumford: It’s inconceivable that threesomes and twosomes of plus handicap professionals take as long to play 18 holes as four weekend hacks. There’s absolutely no viable reason. The once-in-a-blue-moon penalties handed out to the likes of Maria Fassi and Guan Tianlang do little to speed up the rest of the field. The Tours need a shot clock and slow play penalties need to be automatic, frequent and without favour, at least until regular pace of play gets down to four hours or less.

Brooks Koepka announced he was looking forward to some time off following a T5 at the Travelers Championship. He also stated that he found it hard to focus during regular Tour events. “A major I get excited, and I feel stuff on the first tee,” he said. “I just struggle to do that in regular events. The focus and discipline is there in a major, where it’s not here. I kind of go for everything.” Do you find his honesty refreshing or are you offended that a professional Tour player might not be giving it his all every time he tees it up?

Deeks: Brooks Koepka’s arrogant and insulting attitude drives me crazy.  If I were a sponsor of a “regular” tour event, and if I had any say in the matter, I’d uninvite Brooks from attending my tournament, if he feels my event is SO beneath him.  This guy is just walking arrogance… full of himself and how great he thinks he is, and impervious to the lack of sensitivity of his comments.  They may be “refreshing”, but they’re tone deaf and ungrateful to all the sponsors who pay, and all the volunteers who make the PGA Tour possible.  I look forward to the day when he’s not so good and not so smug and finding himself forced to write obsequious letters to sponsors to get an exemption to play in their events.  Good luck with that, Brooks.

Loughry: I’m sure the sponsors of “regular” Tour don’t like to hear that he’s not excited to be there. On the other hand, he is there, and likely drawing fans. But then how should the fans feel, knowing they aren’t getting his “A” game face? I’m sure he’s trying when out there, but maybe not as focused as he’d like to be. If he wins 19 Majors by the end of his career with only a few regular Tour wins thrown in, it will have to be considered one hell of a historical career. Best all time? Not in my Brooks….

Schurman: The PGA TOUR has a rules clause stating exactly that. In fact, John Daly was fined several times for not making his best effort. It might be time for a ‘Dean Beman’ talk with Brooks. He provides thought-provoking comments, but he is also bordering on insubordination.

Rule: I’m not a huge Brooks fan and don’t care for his “don’t care” attitude, but at the same time, I do believe that he gets more pumped up for majors, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  I would think there could still be an event or two that gets the juices flowing like a major, but ultimately those 4 tournaments are the most important on tour, and he has shown the ability to step his game up when it matters.

Mumford: Some days professional golf feels like a game, other days it’s work. Brooks probably says out loud what a lot of guys on Tour feel: they’re not excited to be in Dog Run, Iowa playing the local Tractor Pull Invitational. However, all of them, once they tee it up, want to win. Normally, I’d be all in favour of honesty and transparency but there’s also a time for grace and good manners. Thank the sponsors, tell everybody how wonderful it is to be here and how honoured you’d be to have that mini tractor trophy on your mantle, then go out and give it everything you have. If you can’t do that Brooks, stay home and shut up.

 

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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