Nelly Korda Deserves Her Caitlin Clark Moment, So Why Isn’t She Getting It?
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Nelly Korda Deserves Her Caitlin Clark Moment, So Why Isn’t She Getting It?

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Nelly Korda Deserves Her Caitlin Clark Moment, So Why Isn’t She Getting It?

Women’s golf finally has the player it long needed.

Nelly Korda, a 25-year-old American with an endearing personality, has taken over the LPGA Tour. After winning the Chevron Championship, her second major victory, Korda now has won five tournaments in a row to take a commanding place as the best women’s golfer in the world.

Similar to Scottie Scheffler in the men’s game, Korda is simply on another level compared to her competition. She even got the bad end of the draw for the first two rounds this past week in Houston, but it didn’t matter. Korda is first in Strokes Gained tee to green and second in Strokes Gained around the green, which is eerily in near lockstep with Scheffler.

How are you supposed to beat that? Apparently, for the moment, you don’t.

As a big U.S.-born fan of the women’s game, I used to pine for days when an American woman dominated. I grew up watching Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa, among other greats, who brought significant attention to the LPGA Tour—but we always lacked a supernova talent from the U.S.

Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie were (are) popular but didn’t fully realize their potential on the course for a variety of reasons. Fair or unfair, those two inspired fans to care in a way that international players just haven’t been able to do for the American golf audience.

The LPGA Tour has become a lot deeper over time in terms of competition and the last handful of years has seen remarkable parity. Since 2017, there have been 19 players who won their first major and have yet to follow it up with a second major. The biggest names on that list are Danielle Kang, Jennifer Kupcho and Georgia Hall—good players with nice careers but not superstars.

That parity hasn’t been a positive thing if you look at TV ratings and engagement. It’s hard to get emotionally invested in players if it is a constant revolving door, especially when there are five majors during a season and nobody seems to be grabbing them in multiples.

That could change now.

Korda has 13 LPGA Tour wins and is going into the summer as the most dominant force—at least in a short time span—we’ve seen in women’s golf since Annika. Granted, Sorenstam won 48 times between 2000 to 2006, eventually capturing 10 majors for her career, so Korda is a long way off from establishing that kind of record.

Still, she is the youngest American since Juli Inkster (1984) to win two majors. During her five consecutive wins, she is beating the field by 3.6 strokes per round, a mind-boggling stat. Only Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez have ever won five straight events.

Korda is phenomenal for women’s golf and there has already been substantial progress made because of her growing stature. From popular podcasts, to social media videos, to a five-minute SportsCenter interview last week, the TaylorMade golfer has put in a monumental effort to promote the game.

“She’s kind of our Caitlin Clark out here,” said two-time major winner Lilia Vu, referencing the University of Iowa point guard who captured the country’s imagination the past couple of years during the women’s NCAA basketball tournament.

Clark, who was recently selected No. 1 in the WNBA draft, brought eyeballs to women’s basketball as record audiences tuned in the past two years. The championship game between Iowa and South Carolina peaked at a ridiculous 24 million viewers and averaged 18.7 million during the Gamecocks’ win.

That beat the finale of the men’s basketball tournament (14.82 million viewers), a feat which felt impossible only a few years ago.

Korda deserves that same type of attention. I know college sports come with a built-in passionate fan base—and it’s different watching a player dominate in a game that is so outwardly athletic—but Korda has the personality and immense talent to match Clark, a force of nature who is going on Saturday Night Live and reportedly signing a major deal with NIKE.

So why isn’t Korda right there alongside Clark in terms of popularity? Why doesn’t this feel the same?

In my opinion, what has held Korda back from approaching those heights is that the LPGA suffers from being a poor TV product with minimal shoulder programming around the competition.

I’ve written at length about the PGA Tour’s struggles on TV, but the LPGA is truly treated as a third-rate product that often gets bumped in priority by the PGA Tour Champions (I’ve yet to meet a single person who watches the senior men play on TV. Attending an event in your hometown? Sure. Watching on TV? I think even LIV has more of an audience).

The reality is that LPGA Tour viewership, while increasing, is still so far behind where it could be. Just breaking the one million viewers mark, which happened a few times last season, was cause for celebration. Last July was the most-watched month of LPGA Tour golf ever, according to a Sports Business Journal report. Purses are up to $123.25 million this year (they were $85.7 million last year) and the “total media consumption” metric is at 11.5 million per week this year, up from four million last year.

There is still a lot missing.

Sunday should have been a massive TV moment for the women’s game where at least a few million people watched but the viewing experience was terrible. While the final groups of the Chevron Championship needed six hours to play the final round, NBC only had a few cameras out on the course—the whole broadcast was a total slog.

It did not feel like a major. The graphics, the camera angles, the context needed to fully absorb what was a historic moment—none of it came anywhere close to matching Korda’s performance.

NBC/Comcast has not invested in women’s golf. They are offering bare-bones coverage of women’s majors. The LPGA Tour is in such a state that they are paying ESPN+ (and not the other way around) to bolster programming at certain events (this past week was the first LPGA event of the year where ESPN+ streamed women’s golf. Six events will be covered on ESPN+ over the course of two seasons).

All of this is in direct contrast to women’s basketball. ESPN has been steadily investing in women’s basketball for years, adding shoulder programming, a more robust selection show and other elements to get people interested. The coverage of March Madness on the men’s and women’s sides looks more and more similar every year.

Clark didn’t bring fans in by herself. This “moment” in women’s sports didn’t happen overnight.

The main difference between Clark and Korda is that the structure and investment of coverage in their respective sports is miles apart. NBC/Comcast was handed a perfect script for a young, affable American woman to win a major championship during a dominant run—and they treated it more like a Korn Ferry Tour event than a major of outstanding importance. This has been happening repeatedly, including several recent instances where poor TV windows cut viewers off from consuming LPGA Tour golf.

Sadly, the LPGA Tour’s TV contract with NBC is tied to the PGA Tour’s TV contract which runs to 2030.

Perhaps there is hope that, as women’s sports continue to grow, more of an effort will be made. The cost of rights for the LPGA Tour is significantly cheaper than rights for the PGA Tour so the opportunity is there for a network to invest and, potentially, even come out with a profit. NBC/Contrast signed these deals. They should have a responsibility to try everything they can to promote the women’s game.

Where does someone go to hear knowledgeable people talk about women’s golf? There is some programming out there but we need way more so golf lovers can establish emotional connections to players. I know the LPGA Tour is working on this—they’ve added several employees to help create more content.

It doesn’t help the TV situation, however, which is huge shame. It makes me livid, to be honest.

Women’s golf is interesting and more relatable for recreational golfers. And the excuse of not watching because the game is dominated by unrecognizable players doesn’t fly anymore.

Korda is that superstar we’ve been waiting for.

But until the TV product gets better, the women’s game—and Korda—won’t capture imaginations like we should be seeing.

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Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean is a longtime golf journalist and underachieving 8 handicap who enjoys the game in all forms. If he didn't have an official career writing about golf, Sean would spend most of his free time writing about it anyway. When he isn't playing golf, you can find Sean watching his beloved Florida Panthers hockey team, traveling to a national park or listening to music on his record player. He lives in Nashville with his wife and dog (of course the dog's name is Hogan).

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm





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      Dave H.

      3 weeks ago

      Quite a few comments here about sub-par talking heads, which is true. But the #1 reason the LPGA does not get big ratings vs. hoops, Nelly or not, is that most people that don’t play golf don’t watch it. I only played pick-hoops (in my earlier days) but love to watch college games (men & women), especially during March Madness. And if LIV becomes a part of the tour, you can bet ratings will go down even more.

      Reply

      don

      3 weeks ago

      The LPGA tv model is almost unwatchable due to the coverage. They play incredibly slow (yes the men do too) but since they only follow the top group they have nothing to turn to other than watching them stand there as the announcer’s talk away about how good they are, or you get to see tap in after tap in because they know when that will happen.

      Reply

      Donovan

      3 weeks ago

      Great article. I’m big viewer of the LPGA. I don’t mind the commentators, however Morgan Pressel is the weak sorry to say. I’m sure she’s a nice young lady, but that is the one person I would replace. I think the thing that would help the LPGA the most would be to replace the Evian major with a ladies Masters at Augusta. Sadly, I doubt this will ever happen.

      Reply

      Robert

      3 weeks ago

      Guess you forgot the first to get five wins in a row. Nancy Lopez, no mention of her or recognition …….. oh well, not surprised.

      Reply

      Roger

      4 weeks ago

      Fairholm is a complete fag

      Reply

      Donovan

      3 weeks ago

      Good grief, are you in 7th or 8th grade?

      Reply

      Dean

      3 weeks ago

      What is wrong with you? Grow up.

      Reply

      Joe

      4 weeks ago

      You make some great points about the quality of the LPGA TV coverage not being anywhere near where it needs to be to attract and retain audience interest. However the bigger problem for the women’s game of golf and the LPGA is that women who watch sports on tv, and women more generally as a sports playing demographic group, are not interested in womens golf either watching or playing. I know cue the condemnation from the politically correct.
      The simple fact is that it is predominantly men who watch womens golf and take an interest. The audience has always been skewed roughly 85/15 male vs female. And obviously It is men who overwhelmingly watch the men’s tours as well, closer to a 90/10 split. Just look at the comments on this thread that are nearly all by passionate, male golf fans.
      If women are generally not interested in watching women’s golf and women account for only about 15-18% of the business of golf (rounds played, green fees, equipment & apparel sales) then why is anyone surprised that the networks covering the sport pay it little attention.
      To borrow a line for golf, “She’s just not that into you”. It has always been this way and it always will remain, but the reasons for that are both obvious as well as many and for another time.

      Reply

      Alan

      4 weeks ago

      I’m a Golf addict so I watch it, however I have to turn the commentary off !!!
      As compared to the DP World Tour where the commentary is reason to switch on.

      Reply

      Will

      4 weeks ago

      Why would I pay cable TV prices to watch any flavor of TV golf when I can just go on YouTube and watch vastly more entertaining golf content from people like Rick Shiels and Peter Finch for free? Professional commentators and canned interviews are boring. NBC should take notes.

      Reply

      Mark

      4 weeks ago

      I watch the LPGA, is the broadcast the best? NO!!, but I watch for the golf, I don’t care about graphics and all the other stuff. To each their own. You mention the champions tour, I watch, so do all my friends, what we never watched was womens college basketball until Clark, she did bring in the people, it wasn’t the God awful pregame or coverage from ESPN, it was Clark, and you will probably see a bump in WNBA and a drop in womens college bball next year. Its about the players, if they are exciting, people will watch, if its boring golf, they wont.

      Reply

      John J.

      4 weeks ago

      Going from the Masters event to the Chevron champion was like going from the World Cup to youth soccer.

      The coverage was abysmal and there’s no excuse for it other than the disrespect that NBC has shown towards the LPGA. I personally don’t want NBC unless it’s showing a major sporting event and I wish they would get outbid for everyone because typically, their coverage is terrible.

      Nelly is a great golfer and for those that watch her play, they are seeing history being made. I never miss an opportunity to watch her play and that means to the exclusion of a PGA or LIV event going on simultaneously.

      Reply

      Wayne van Huyssteen

      4 weeks ago

      Great article!
      SUCH POOR TV! Poor Lexi being showed off struggling with god knows how many over par, its like flogging a dead horse.
      A big step to improve to situation: get new commentators!

      Reply

      Mark Chadderdon

      4 weeks ago

      “ Women’s golf is interesting and more relatable for recreational golfers. And the excuse of not watching because the game is dominated by unrecognizable players doesn’t fly anymore.

      Korda is that superstar we’ve been waiting for” Exactly!!! Great article and well written’n

      Reply

      Jason S

      4 weeks ago

      Calling the TV coverage of the LPGA a “third-rate product” is being kind. NBC/Comcast is a joke when it comes to anything other than the PGA Tour. Even then, coverage of the PGA Tour has gotten worse and worse each year. It’s become multiple hours of commercials surrounded by a few golf shots occasionally. I’d love to watch the LPGA, but the TV product is so horrible it’s difficult to. With all the push for women’s sports out there, you’d think someone in a position to do something, would. Sadly, they aren’t.

      Reply

      Mike

      3 weeks ago

      Do people not watch the LPGA because coverage is bad & very sporadic? Or is the coverage bad and sporadic because few people watch it regularly.

      Wouldn’t hurt if you had a really great American Superstar as opposed to the Wie’s and the Thompson’s who were/are good players but never lived up to the hype. This year, Nelly Korda is that player, but how many people outside of true LPGA fans know and/ or care?

      Reply

      Hen Bogan

      4 weeks ago

      There is no ‘wow’ generator in golf having success right now. That applies to both the men’s or women’s game. Consistent play propped up by surgical precision doesn’t move the needle. That’s why Scotty and Nelly are met with a luke warm, ho-hum reception. Sports fans want peaks and valleys. They want Bryson trying to drive the green on #6 at Bay Hill, and Spieth recovering from a triple bogey with an impossible chip in eagle. Accuracy and consistency will never outpace distance and “magic” in golf.

      Both Lexi and Michelle Wie have/had the distance factor that got them into men’s events. That peaks interests and draws eyeballs.

      Reply

      PHDrunkards

      4 weeks ago

      Cos he came from a famous tennis family with loads of money and riches surrounded by the good life and all the good stuff, living on and practicing at expensive private country clubs

      Reply

      Kevin S.

      4 weeks ago

      Well, you can start with NBC’s complete insult of the LPGA and one of its majors by signing off right after the end of the Chevron. Can you imagine CBS Sports doing this at the Masters? Terry Gannon informed us, “If you want to see the trophy ceremony or the diving into the pond, you can watch that on Peacock.” What the ??? This is supposed to be major sports network covering a major for women’s golf! The fact that a large portion of players seem intending to “slow down” or even “ice” Nelly Korda’s usual pace of play is also quite evident. Nelly’s after-round comments about the pace was ignored by NBC and later by Gold Channel, an NBC Sports step-child. Six-hour plus rounds with the last group waiting ON EVERY SINGLE SHOT is not the intended look. Some people have accused teachers and instructors in Korea, Japan and even China of actually teaching how to “control” a quicker opponent by slow-down methods. I don’t know about that, but it sure looks as if it’s possible.

      Reply

      Mike

      3 weeks ago

      That is absolutely being taught. And the other way around also. When my daughter plays against a another high school golf team, their golfers use push carts & literally run to their ball to make it seem like their opposing players are playing too slow.

      Reply

      Ryan

      4 weeks ago

      Nelly Korda has the best golf swing in the game of golf right now. Between her and Scheffler we are witnessing domination that the game hasn’t seen in quite some time. I bet the TaylorMade team are quite happy right now.

      Reply

      Drew

      4 weeks ago

      And they are both void of emotion and utterly boring to watch. Good luck staying awake.
      Zzzzzzzz.

      Reply

      CB

      3 weeks ago

      Tiger Woods has entered the chat. One of the most boring to watch. Same thing, over and over.

      Donovan

      3 weeks ago

      You sound like a true golf fan.🙄

      The Swami

      4 weeks ago

      basketball ratings have been going up forever in all genders, leagues, divisions. using ESPN’s investment in that as an example is comparing apples to oranges.

      until (if?) the root cause of overall plummeting golf ratings across all leagues and platforms is solved, you’re not going to see more investment. they already tried that to no avail on the men’s side with more data, analytics, gambling, comedy (the Match), etc.

      Reply

      Linc Jones

      4 weeks ago

      Nobody wants to watch women’s golf. As you said, the coverage is terrible, and they make it look boring even if it’s not. We don’t care as much about men’s golf anymore either, for long list of reasons. I feel bad for the pros in that respect, because its not their fault the people running their organizations don’t seem to care about what the fans want to see.

      Reply

      Jimmy

      4 weeks ago

      What’s this “we” stuff? I watch women’s golf and it’s great.

      Reply

      Tim

      4 weeks ago

      Ok jimmy. Buy some tuck tape now. And grab a soy latte

      Donovan

      3 weeks ago

      Agree. I think the LPGA is great. Sadly, there are too many folks like “Tim” who replied to you.

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