It's been a tough go, being an LPGA fan over the last few years. With the sport's most visible and best-known star retiring and its second-best-known star only winning her first event last year, with tournaments vanishing and upper LPGA leadership changing, the fans of the LPGA have long suffered.
But there may well be hope on the horizon. We're starting the 2010 LPGA season this week, and thanks to a new commissioner and a crop of young players ready to take center stage, the season begins with -- dare I say it? -- hope that better times are ahead.
Things looked bleak last year, bleak indeed. Tournaments were vanishing, sponsors were bailing, networks weren't broadcasting tournaments, and the Tour itself was in the midst of a full-on revolt over the leadership of former commissioner Carolyn Bivens.
But with the arrival of new commissioner Michael Whan, the LPGA has the chance to start again anew, perhaps learning from the mistakes of the past. Such drama as the "English-only" debacle hopefully won't happen again under the Whan regime, and with any luck, sponsors will begin creeping back to a game that's got as much raw talent now as it's had in years.
Lorena Ochoa remains the No. 1 golfer, but she's getting a challenge from 2009 rookie of the year Jiyai Shin. Beyond those two, there are a host of talented competitors such as Paula Creamer, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, Ai Miyazato and many others. Natalie Gulbis and Christina Kim may not yet equal the on-course results of their more decorated peers, but they're on the leading edge of a fan-interaction/public-relations blitz that the PGA Tour would do well to imitate.
And then there's the Wie factor. With Annika Sorenstam gone, Michelle Wie is now the LPGA golfer most fans know. With her first victory last year, there are good indications that her talents are starting to match her hype. But we'll have to see if she can keep up the momentum she had late last season; any misstep and her haters -- who are apparently legion -- will pounce.
Regardless, these are good days for the LPGA. The ugly political battles and sponsor defections are in the past, for the moment, and now the ladies can get down to playing better golf than you or I could ever manage.
(For a complete roundup of rundowns -- or would that be rundown of roundups? -- make sure to hit the LPGA-expert Mostly Harmless.)