A Message to Webb: C'mon, Karrie
Like it or not, as the LPGA's top player you have a responsibility to do more for the tour
Congratulations on your victory at the Oldsmobile Classic, your sixth win of the season. Without question you have become one of the most important figures in the history of women's golf. That is the reason for this letter. I don't have to tell you that the LPGA is corporate America's third choice when it comes to golf. When a sponsor can't be found for the du Maurier Classic, a major championship, the situation speaks for itself.
Fairly or unfairly, to make their product more attractive, the women, as Ty Votaw and every LPGA commissioner before him have said, have to try harder, and the top player hardest of all. In my opinion this is an area in which you haven't been doing your job.
Take what happened two weeks ago at the Women's British Open. You incurred a two-stroke penalty in the third round after a commentator on the BBC telecast correctly reported that you had taken an improper drop. You were understandably upset about your error, which was committed largely because you avoided an official in the interest of pace of play. It was also understandable that you declined a BBC interview request for fear that you might say something intemperate. But that's exactly what you did a few minutes later when you told a BBC representative trying to film your answers to print journalists, "I will never do another interview with the BBC. You can shove it When I'm over here next year, don't even ask, don't even think about it."
Votaw didn't want to dwell on the incident, saying, "I'm chalking it up to a bad day" Your agent at IMG, Jay Burton, called it "a reaction moment." I call it inexcusable, another example of the petulance you too often exhibit.
Why, for instance, are you annoyed when asked to compare your exploits with those of Tiger Woods? Am I missing something? Am I mistaken to think that being compared with Woods—and statistically, the similarities are amazing—is a compliment and an easy way to get added exposure for the women's game?
Come on, Karrie, this diva act has to stop. It hurts the LPGA. Whether you like it or not, you're the face of the association and are judged on more than what you do on the course. You don't have to be the second coming of Nancy Lopez, and I respect the fact that you are shy. I know you've taken refuge in another comparison—with Mickey Wright—who preferred to let her record speak for her, and still does. But Wright also did a lot of heavy lifting to promote the LPGA, including serving as its president for two years. She gave back a great deal, probably more than was good for her career.
No one expects you to sacrifice that much. Nor am I saying that you are always difficult. You are to be commended for working with the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, which assists victims of paralysis, such as your swing coach, Kelvin Haller. You showed your appreciation for the LPGA's early pathfinders with a well-delivered speech at the tour's 50th anniversary gala in January. When I covered your win at last year's du Maurier, I found you cooperative, insightful and likable.
You have the tools. You just need to polish them with the same diligence you've applied to your game. Although carrying the weight of a tour on 25-year-old shoulders is expecting a lot, such responsibility comes with the territory you now occupy. Woods has accepted this reality, and it's not coincidental that his image, his life and his game have improved.
Look at your duties as an opportunity, not as a burden. Golf is as popular as it has ever been, and women's golf should be riding the wave. If you work to connect with the public, you'll be remembered as a herald as well as a great player. You don't have to change to do it. Just let your best self come through.