Tom Hanson: LPGA Tour high on talent, low on rivalries

The LPGA Tour is deep in talent. It’s short on buzz.

The ability of the Stacy Lewises, Paula Creamers and So Yeon Ryus is undeniable.

But does anyone care? Are jaw-dropping drives and applause-producing putts enough to sustain a sport desperate for sponsors? Will smiles and a never-ending autograph Sharpie attract the economy-strapped fans?

The LPGA Tour needs more than red-laced scores and an impressive international leaderboard.

It needs a little love and hate. It needs Yankees vs. Red Sox. It needs a little mano-a-mano. It needs Jack Nicklaus vs. Arnold Palmer. It needs a Dottie Pepper glare at anyone for any reason. It needs Annika Sorenstam vs. Karrie Webb.

The LPGA Tour could use an old-fashion rivalry.

It needs a modern-day Nancy Lopez vs. JoAnne Carner.

Lopez said on Saturday that Carner was her idol and also her fiercest competitor.

“I looked up to JoAnne but I also wanted to beat her every week,” Lopez said. “She motivated me to get better and to beat her was even sweeter.”

Lopez acknowledged that the rivalry aspect is missing from today’s tour.

“There is great depth on this tour with a universal flavor but there are so many great players it’s hard for them to separate themselves,” she said.

Lopez said the tour could use a few more head-to-head clashes like the one at the Kingsmill Championship in September. Creamer and Jiyai Shin battled in an epic 9-hole playoff that took two days to finish.

Shin won and Lopez is right.

There needs to be a little us against them. There needs to be a little Yankee Doodle Dandy pride.

The LPGA Tour could use a U.S. v. the World mentally. It could use a universal rivalry.

Lopez said U.S. fans should clamor for such a feast. But the pickings are slim this week. There was one lone American flag on the Top-10 leaderboard at the end of Saturday’s round.

Lopez remembers playing Se Ri Pak in Korea and the fans wanting nothing to do with their friendly rivalry.

“They did not want me to win,” Lopez said about playing against her good friend in her country.

Maybe the American fans are too gracious.

On Sunday, fans will see fellow-countrywomen Na Yeon Choi and Ryu square off in the final group of the CME Group Titleholders. Don’t expect any gamesmanship, players walking ahead of another to show their dominance or anyone giving the other the silent treatment. These two will probably be walking arm-and-arm, maybe even skipping, up the TwinEagle fairways, chatting about their dogs or upcoming shopping trips.

“I'm always really happy playing with Na Yeon,” said Ryu, avoiding any chance to throw down the gauntlet and signal: “May the best Korean win.”

Choi did say that Ryu motivates her to play better and referred to her as a “rival.” But it wasn’t exactly a preview to golf’s version of a Florida-Florida State football game.

“If she has a birdie and I feel I can have a birdie, too,” Choi said. “So I think it motivates each other so it should be fun tomorrow.”

But does fun translate into great theater?

The only theater created by a rivalry on Saturday was Webb against herself -- and she got beat up pretty bad after a one-putt double bogey on the last hole.

The LPGA Tour has tons of talent and the ability is at an all-time high.

But the tour is short on drama. Unfortunately, the rivalries match the scoring. They are both at an all-time low.

Email NDN columnist Tom Hanson at thanson@naplesnews.com

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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