RIO DE JANEIRO – LPGA commissioner Mike Whan began really concentrating on his tour’s 2016 schedule about two years ago.
Whan loves to find natural breaks throughout the year where his players can recharge their collective batteries. Those breaks often come before and after the tour heads overseas for spurts throughout the year.
Although a break in the middle of August isn’t ideal, it’s one that Whan believes had to happen. Unlike the PGA Tour, which did not take a week off before, during or after the Olympics, the LPGA is in the midst of a three-week break. PGA Tour players Camilo Villegas and Brendon de Jonge both opted to play the John Deere Classic last week instead of the Olympics because both are looking to wrap up playing privileges for next year.
The last time the LPGA hit a competitive golf shot, Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn was putting the finishing touches on her first major championship at the Women’s British Open. That was July 31. The next competitive shot will be next week at the Canadian Women’s Open.
“I didn’t feel comfortable with 40 players to come play in the Olympics and find that they’re falling behind on the schedule,” Whan said Tuesday at the Olympic Golf Course. “Other sports take a break and say this is what we’re looking at. I didn’t want to compete with the Olympics, I wanted to put the light on the Olympics.”
And besides, Whan says, sponsors didn’t want to put their name on an event that wouldn’t be the biggest even in golf that week. That was a big concern.
But really, the biggest goes back to Whan’s original premise. He didn’t want a player – regardless of where she may fall in status – to lose ground because she played in the Olympics.
“I have a difficult time looking at somebody who is 25th on the money list and say ‘great job at the Olympics but now you’re 29th on the money list,’” Whan said. “That didn’t seem like it was going to play for us.”