Wie victory gives troubled LPGA Tour unexpected lift
Los Angeles: Michelle Wie`s breakthrough victory on the LPGA Tour has given the US women`s circuit a timely boost after a season of economic struggle.
The Hawaiian`s two-shot triumph at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico on Sunday came just 18 days after the Tour appointed a new commissioner to rebuild relationships with sponsors and players.
On October 28, former marketing executive Michael Whan succeeded Carolyn Bivens, who resigned in July after several LPGA players voiced concerns about the health of the tour in the face of the economic downturn.
At that point, the women`s tour had lost seven tournaments since 2007, including all three in Hawaii, and numerous others are up for renewal at the end of the year.
In the 20-year-old Wie, however, the circuit has one of the biggest drawcards in the game, a gifted and long-hitting player who is beloved by television and sponsors alike.
Blessed with abundant talent, the Korean-American turned professional at 15 under a mountain of expectation after signing endorsement deals believed to be worth USD 10 million (5.9 million pounds) a year.
She joined the paid ranks in 2005 as golf`s richest female and one of the highest paid athletes in women`s sport. Swede Annika Sorenstam, the world number one at the time, earned around USD 6 million a year in endorsements.
Surprisingly, it took another four years before Wie finally visited the winner`s circle, a trying period as she battled injuries, putting woes and criticism from many of her peers for her sporadic attempts to make the cut on the men`s PGA Tour.
Golf`s most trumpeted teenager since Tiger Woods, she came under intense media scrutiny as she strived to land a first tournament victory since the 2003 US women`s amateur public links title aged 13.
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