LPGA trims schedule amid economic downturn
The 2009 schedule released Wednesday has 31 events ' 20 in the United States and 11 internationally ' not including the Solheim Cup. Tournaments off the schedule include the ADT Championship, which starts Thursday and closes this years slate.
Purses will be around $55 million, about $5.25 million down from 2008. The tour announced $53.4 million in purses Wednesday; the Ginn Open in Reunion, Fla., which had a $2.6 million prize pool this year, has not yet determined what itll pay out in 2009.
Its no secret that the road ahead, particularly 2009, is going to test our mettle, LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens said. She added that the LPGA is confronting challenges facing not only other sports and entertainment organizations, but by every business enterprise of any kind in all corners around the world.
In recent weeks, the NBA has announced layoffs and the closing of its Los Angeles office, and several NASCAR teams have laid off staff to cut costs. Golf isnt immune, but Bivens predicted the LPGA would be solidly profitable in 2009.
The state of the global economy and the economic crisis were all facing has resulted in a slightly different tournament landscape, Bivens said. Its not something that comes as a surprise.
Besides the ADT, other events not continuing over sponsorship issues include the Fields Open in Hawaii and Ginn Tribute in South Carolina. The Ginn Tribute shut down in August, and officials at Broken Arrow in Tulsa, Okla. announced Tuesday their event, sponsored by SemGroup, would not continue.
An event in Thailand is being added from Feb. 26-March 1, part of what amounts to two international swings toward the beginning and end of the yearlong schedule.
The Safeway International, which has been held in Arizona, is also gone over a sponsorship issue and essentially becomes the LPGA International in the Phoenix area. The Safeway Classic, at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon, remains on the 2009 slate.
Also missing from the schedule released Wednesday are the after-season events, such as the Lexus Cup and Wendys 3-Tour Challenge. Bivens said those unofficial-money events will continue getting talked about in the coming months.
Its a scary time for everybody, 2007 U.S. Womens Open champion Cristie Kerr said. My whole outlook on that is youve just got to be able to ride the waves.
Next year will be one of transition for the LPGA, which is about to lose its biggest draw in Annika Sorenstam, the 72-time winner who is stepping away from the game to pursue family and business interests after this weeks ADT Championship.
The LPGAs existing television deals expire after 2009, making the task of filling schedules for 2010 and beyond even more daunting.
I wish this economic downturn had waited one more year, said Bivens. I wish we had one more year. But Im grateful we had the past three.
The average per-tournament purse of about $1.77 million remains largely unchanged.
Next years LPGA schedule begins in Hawaii, then heads to Thailand, Singapore and Mexico, not returning to the U.S. until the Phoenix event from March 26-29, details of which have yet to be released.
Some events shifted slots from the 2008 schedule, others changed sponsors and details are still being finalized about the Samsung World Championship, which was in California this year.
One quirk to the 2009 schedule: The U.S. Womens Open starts July 9, followed by the Evian Masters, the British Open and the Solheim Cup. So its possible that a player who isnt qualified for those events wouldnt play between the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic (which ends July 5) and the Safeway Classic (which starts Aug. 28).
Given what could have been the potential negative economic impact on our schedule, we view this as a barometer of stability, appeal and value for our players and our property, Bivens said.
Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change
Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.
David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.
“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.
Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.
“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”
Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.
The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.
Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.
Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:
1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.
2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.
While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”
PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes
The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:
The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.
We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.
Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open
JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.
The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.
Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.
''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''
Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 5: Dec. 12
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18