Will Cheyenne Woods Be the Next Face of Women's Golf?

Mike DudurichContributor IFebruary 11, 2014

Cheyenne Woods holds the winners' trophy for the Australian Ladies Masters.
Cheyenne Woods holds the winners' trophy for the Australian Ladies Masters.Matt Roberts/Getty Images

The jumping to conclusions has already begun.

With a victory in the Australian Ladies Masters on Sunday, Cheyenne Woods has been elevated to the next "it" in women's golf.

At least in the minds of some, who believe the niece of Tiger Woods is now on the fast track to superstardom.

In an attempt to slow that high-speed train down for just a minute, does anyone remember Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel or Natalie Gulbis? For a variety of reasons, those three, as well as others, were going to be the next great thing in women's golf.

Even more to the point, Cheyenne Woods, a 23-year-old, hasn't even been good enough to qualify to play full-time on the LPGA or Ladies European Tour. She failed in two attempts to qualify for the LPGA and has played mostly on the SunCoast and Ladies European Tour.

But even there, she has struggled, finishing 78th on the Order of Merit there. That, in itself, doesn't engender much confidence in the graduate of Wake Forest. The LET doesn't have nearly the depth of the LPGA Tour.

So Woods has won two tournaments, one on the SunCoast Tour and this one on the Australian Tour. Winning anywhere is great and doing so at the lower levels of golf has been proven to be the way to great things at the higher levels.

Cheyenne Woods unloads off the tee.
Cheyenne Woods unloads off the tee.Matt Roberts/Getty Images

The field in the Australian Ladies Masters was not without talent. Australian Karrie Webb was trying to win the tournament for a record ninth time. Jessica Korda, who won the LPGA Tour season-opener a couple weeks ago in the Bahamas, Caroline Hedwall, who helped the Europeans beat the United States in the Solheim Cup last year, and Yani Tseng, who had an impressive stretch as No. 1 in the world, were there as well.

But I think we are going way too fast with the predictions of great popularity and success waiting just around the corner for her.

Can we assume there will be increased interest in Woods among tournament sponsors on the LPGA circuit? I have no doubt about that. That tour, which is making a comeback from several tough years, will grasp at any straw to get some attention.

But what the LPGA needs is someone who will not only draw attention, but become a superstar. Wie drew all kinds of attention but failed to deliver to match the overwhelming hype that preceded her onto the tour. Morgan Pressel had the cutest smile and a great personality, but has never become a dominant player. And Gulbis? Tall, blonde, great smile, killer figure. Golf? Average. One win, but she has made over $4 million in her career.

You can also reasonably assume golf fans would like Cheyenne to succeed so they could feel good rooting for someone from that family. If she's able to succeed and escape from the shadow of her hugely successful and highly unlikeable uncle, it would be great for her and the game.

“I’ve been pro for two years and, for the majority of it, people just think of me as Tiger Woods’ niece, so now I have a game of my own and I have a title now, a win, which is exciting,” she was quoted in an Associated Press story (h/t ESPN.com) following her win Sunday.

“It’s nice now to say to people that I can play and I’m not just a name. Growing up with the last name of Woods, there’s a lot of expectations and pressure and spotlight on you but I always knew that I was able to win."

But again, instant success at the highest level of women's golf is not guaranteed. How about the recent young powerhouses that have come onto the LPGA Tour? Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson and Jessica Korda are all phenoms who could do big things on the LPGA Tour.

So if—and it's a big if—Woods is able to take the opportunities that most likely will be coming her way and turn those into full-time membership on the LPGA Tour, there are other young women with better resumes trying to be the one to become the next face of women's golf.

Yes, the LPGA Tour is starved for a young, pretty, world-class golfer to lead them to bigger and better things. It's a tough sell out there and they have to take advantage of every marketing and publicity opportunity that comes along.

But let's not force this on Cheyenne Woods. She's had enough pressure growing up and trying to get outside the shadow of Uncle Tiger.

Let her develop and grow into that superstar, that face of the game.

Force it and we may end up with another Michelle Wie.