Bivens Delivers State of LPGA

By Jay CoffinNovember 19, 2008, 5:00 pm
2006 ADT ChampionshipWEST PALM BEACH, Fla. ' With as much anticipation as there has been for an LPGA news conference in the past five years, commissioner Carolyn Bivens stepped to the podium and delivered a State of the Tour Address with poise, passion and precision.
 
It was the first time Bivens had made herself available to the media since the English proficiency gaffe in August and the packed house of journalists were eager to follow up with questions regarding that debacle, as well as the 2009 schedule, which had been speculated about ad nauseam over the past month.
 
She entered the room on crutches from a recent foot surgery and the throngs were waiting to see if the LPGA was going to limp into 2009 just as its leader had limped into the interview room. Nearly 40 minutes later, it was clear that the tour would feel the effects of the economic downturn in the U.S. and that, although several events would not return to the 2009 docket, the LPGA seemingly has weathered the storm at least for now.
 
Its no secret that the road ahead, particularly 2009, is going to test our mettle, Bivens said. The state of the global economy and the economic crisis were all facing has resulted in a slightly different tournament landscape. Its not something that comes as a surprise.
 
Here is a smattering of events that came out of the chat with the commish:
 
  • The schedule has 31 events, down from 34 in 2008. Those gone include the Fields Open in Hawaii, the Ginn Tribute, the SemGroup Championship in Oklahoma and the ADT Championship here this week at Trump International. On the flip side, the Honda LPGA Thailand event, which debuted in 2007, returned after a hiatus in 2008.
     
    Of the 31 events, 13 are held outside the mainland of the U.S. There are three in Mexico, two in Hawaii and one in Canada, Thailand, Singapore, France, England, China, South Korea and Japan.
     
    Purses will be around $55 million, about $5.25 million down from this year.
     
  • There are five TBDs on the schedule. Some were a surprise, some were not. The Safeway International in Phoenix is now the LPGA International with the loss of Safeway as title sponsor. The tournament will remain in Phoenix and Bivens is hopeful that it will remain at Superstition Mountain but that is not finalized.
     
    Ginn Resorts will have one event, not two as it has the past two years. It was announced earlier this year that the Ginn Tribute wouldnt return to South Carolina but that the company would focus its efforts on making the Ginn Open in Orlando a better event. However, the purse, one of the tops on tour over the past three years, is listed as TBD.
     
    The Samsung World Championship will move from October to September but the course and city have not yet been determined. The China LPGA in late October does not have a venue and the Stanford Financial Tour Championship will be played in Houston but the course is not known.
     
  • The loss of the ADT Championship here at The Donalds place has created much conversation. The LPGA contends that the event never was going to be on the schedule for 2009 and that it always had planned to host the event at the beginning of the 2010 schedule. Only, when the LPGA made the move it ultimately resulted in not having ADT join as title sponsor. Reasons seem to vary as to why.
     
    Im sad that it wasnt able to work out, said unofficial tournament host Donald Trump. Thats the way it goes sometimes.
     
    The tour says it simply couldnt come to terms with an agreement, but ADT officials told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that the LPGA upped its renewal pricing which caused the security systems company to re-evaluate the value of the overall event. ADT was also quick to point out that the decision was not based on cost cutting measures, but that it was increasing its marketing budget over the next couple years.
     
    Besides, some players are not all too comfortable with the idea of opening a season for a $1 million first-place prize. Sure, the money is nice, but most rarely are in top form early in the season.
     
    To come out of an offseason to play for $1 million would be interesting, Paula Creamer said. The same effect could be different.
     
  • There is potential for a player not to be eligible for an event for seven weeks in the middle of the summer. If someone doesnt qualify for the U.S. Womens Open or the British Open she wouldnt be able to play in an LPGA event from July 5 (the last day of the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic) until Aug. 28 (the first day of the Safeway Classic in Oregon). Thats a span of 54 days. In between are the U.S. Womens Open, Evian Masters, Womens British Open and Solheim Cup, all events that are not guaranteed to all players with full exempt status.
     
    Sure were uncomfortable with that, Bivens said. We want to fill holes.
     
  • Then there is that pesky English proficiency deal, which generated worldwide interest back in August when the LPGA said it would require all players to speak conversational English or risk losing tour status until the test is passed. After receiving heat from numerous organizations and risking the loss of several key tour sponsorships, the tour soon backed off its stance. But it didnt ban the idea altogether and still plans to institute some sort of program that will urge players to speak English.
     
    Whats come out of all of that is offers in some cases for some pro bono work from some pretty impressive groups and organizations, Bivens said. And were taking them up on it.
     
    So were actually going to make this more extensive than wed ever intended to in the very first place. And our goal is to come out of this a year to 18 months from now and have a model program.
     
    And with that, what many believed would be a contentious Q&A session, turned into just another model news conference.
     
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  • Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

    Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

    By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

    Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

    “I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

    Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

    According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

    Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

    Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

    “He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

    Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.

    Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

    By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

    He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

    The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

    Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

    Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

    3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

    5/2: Rory McIlroy

    7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

    9/2: Justin Rose

    5/1: Brooks Koepka

    15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

    10/1: Adam Scott

    12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

    15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

    20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

    25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

    30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes