Titles elude U.S. women

0-for-8 in LPGA events this year

Asians dominate

May 27, 2010|By Jeff Shain, Tribune newspapers

Angela Stanford admits she took on something of a mental burden as she played the final day of last week's Sybase Match Play Championship.

It wasn't her fault, of course, that she was the only American to reach the semifinals in the revival of the LPGA's match-play showcase. But that didn't keep the proud Texan from carrying the weight of fan interest on her shoulders.

"If anything, I was trying harder because I know that it just kind of keeps coming up — 'An American needs to win; an American needs to win,'" said Stanford, who fell to South Korea's Sun Young Yoo 3-and-1 in the final.

Why does an American need to win?

Well, because Americans haven't. The flagship of women's golf now has played eight events in a stop-and-go season without an American winning one.

There have been a couple of years where it required more events to crown a U.S. winner, but never before has the LPGA so much as entered May without handing at least one trophy to an American.

"We're a global tour," Stanford affirmed.

Complicating the issue is that Asian pros have won seven events and there are so many of them that many casual fans have difficulty keeping track of just who's who.

Go back a little further, and the outlook doesn't improve much. Over the last 54 weeks — since Cristie Kerr won the now-defunct Kingsmill stop in Virginia — the LPGA has had only one American winner in 27 tournaments.

Michelle Wie got her long-awaited first LPGA triumph last November —at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico. One also might include Morgan Pressel's triumph at a Japanese stop earlier this month.

"Anybody can step up. It's just a matter of who's willing to do it," Brittany Lincicome said recently.

It's not as though American girls are struggling. In fact, the depth of U.S. talent — young American talent — may be as good as it ever has been. Lincicome, Paula Creamer (still recovering from thumb surgery) and Wie have been through enough LPGA battles to brand them as veterans.

Stacy Lewis is a former NCAA champ who almost won the 2008 U.S. Women's Open in her first pro start. Amanda Blumenherst is an LPGA rookie after winning just about every top junior and amateur title. Still to come is 15-year-old Alexis Thompson, set to turn pro next month and play a half-dozen events with sponsor exemptions.

During the aforementioned 27-event stretch, Americans own 11 runner-up finishes. But it has been difficult to keep up with the Asians, who have have won 19 of those tournaments.

"As players, we don't see them as Koreans or Asians. We see them as competitors and players on our tour," Stanford said. "They're making all of us better. It's a global tour because of the Asians and the Europeans."

A little homegrown flavor wouldn't hurt, though.

jshain@tribune.com

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