Notes LPGA to Revive Match Play Format

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LPGA logo for LeaderboardsThe LPGA Tour is going back to match play for the first time in more than 50 years, offering the second-largest payoff in women's golf.
 
The HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship will be played June 30-July 3 at Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone, N.J., with a $2 million purse for the 64-player field and $500,000 for the winner.
 
Only the U.S. Women's Open, which paid $560,000 last year, has a larger first-place check.
 
Because the women's world rankings will not start until next year, the field will be determined by the top 60 on the LPGA Tour money list going into the U.S. Women's Open. The other four spots would go to the Women's Open champion if not already qualified, a leading Japanese tour player and two sponsor's exemptions.
 
HSBC also is title sponsor of the World Match Play Championship in England, where 1 million pounds is the largest first-place prize in golf among official tournaments.
 
``This is a good one for us,'' LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw said. ``IMG was very helpful in getting that done. Obviously, HSBC does the Match Play event in London, and they wanted to expand into the United States. The greater New York metropolitan area was important for them.''
 
The weekend will be televised by CBS Sports, giving the LPGA Tour seven tournaments on network television.
 
Unlike the Accenture Match Play Championship at La Costa that is spread out over five days, the women will have 32 matches Thursday, 16 matches Friday, eight matches Saturday, the semifinals Sunday morning and the 18-hole final Sunday afternoon. The men play a 36-hole final, while every match in the 16-man field in England is 36 holes.
 
The last time the LPGA had match play was the Orlando Mixed Doubles in 1954.
 
EARLY MERCHANDISE
U.S. Open merchandise is so popular that the USGA figured it wouldn't hurt to stock the shelves early - in the case of Torrey Pines, four years early.
Shirts and hats with the 2008 U.S. Open logo went on sale last June. During the Buick Invitational last week, 40 percent of the items for sale in the pro shop - and 40 percent of the receipts - were U.S. Open merchandise.
 
``There was so much hype in San Diego,'' said Susan Casagranda, general manager at Torrey Pines.
 
It will be the first U.S. Open in southern California since 1948 at Riviera. Mary Lopuszynski, in her 10th year as merchandising director for the USGA, said logo items also went on sale as soon as it became available for the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.
 
Bethpage ('09) and Pebble Beach ('10) can also expect early sales once the logos are designed.
 
``It's reached a point where people are excited about,'' she said. ``We wanted to make the merchandise available.''
 
HALL OF FAME
By his record alone, Vijay Singh is the most qualified player on the World Golf Hall of Fame ballot that is in the mail - 25 victories on the PGA Tour, three majors, two money titles, and No. 1 in the world.
 
The question is whether Curtis Strange and Lanny Wadkins, two players overlooked the last few years, will continue to pick up enough votes to be elected.
 
David Toms was shocked to learn neither was already in.
 
``If I had the same credentials and I wasn't voted in somewhere in my life, I would feel slighted,'' Toms said.
 
Strange has 17 victories and back-to-back U.S. Open titles, along with three PGA Tour money titles, five Ryder Cup teams and twice winning PGA player of the year. He was the top American player of his era.
 
Wadkins has 21 victories, including the PGA Championship, and played on eight Ryder Cup teams.
 
``Maybe you have to win five majors and 25 times the way this is going,'' Toms said.
 
Strange was the leading vote-getter last year among those who did not get the required 65 percent for election.
 
``Some people worry about it and some don't. I'm in the second category,'' Strange said. ``It would be great thing. But it's out of my control, simple as that.''
 
SKINNER AWARD
Val Skinner, a six-time winner on the LPGA Tour who became a leading fund-raiser for breast cancer research, won the Charlie Bartlett Award from the Golf Writers Association of America for unselfish contributions to society.
 
Skinner, 44, has helped raise more than $2.5 million for breast cancer research. Her annual Life Pro-Am (LPGA Pros in the Fight to Eradicate Breast Cancer) has generated $500,000 each of the last five years, a record for a one-day golf charity event for the cause.
 
Skinner will be honored April 6 in Augusta, Ga.
 
LOPEZ ON LPGA
Nancy Lopez gave the LPGA Tour its biggest boost in the 1970s, and she is hopeful that the tour finds a suitable replacement for commissioner Ty Votaw by the end of the year when he steps down.
 
``It's nice he gave us some warning,'' Lopez said. ``I hope they take their time and find someone to help the LPGA move forward. I'm sure the tour will be strong after he's gone, but they need someone to step into some big shoes.''
 
Lopez said it would be great for LPGA to have its first female commissioner, but only if it's the right one.
 
``She's got to be smart, feminine and a consensus-builder,'' Lopez said. ``Women have the world in the palm of their hand if they act like ladies.''