Did Asians save the LPGA?

By Randall MellMay 4, 2016, 7:55 pm

Asians aren’t killing the tour, as a prominent LPGA player once harshly suggested.

On the contrary, they might have saved it.

For the sixth time in the last seven tournaments, a domestic LPGA event is being title sponsored by an Asian company.

This week’s Yokohama Tire Classic is an example of how the women’s tour has turned what was once perceived as one of its biggest problems into one of its greatest assets.

OK, if Asian dominance didn’t actually save the tour, it certainly played a large role in helping rebuild it.

In 2011, the LPGA withered through the aftereffects of an American recession to a bare-bones schedule of 23 events. There were seven Asian companies sponsoring events that year. Today, there are 33 official events on the LPGA schedule with 14 sponsored by Asian companies or organizations. Notably, one third of the title sponsors of U.S. events this year are Asian (6/18).

Yokohama, a Japanese tire company, is in the third and final year of its contract as title sponsor of this week’s event on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Prattville, Ala. The LPGA is in talks to renew the deal.

“As healthy as the LPGA is now, one of the hidden factors in our health is how diversified we are in our support,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said. “We have gone through a lot of regional recessions [around the world] in our seven years but none of them has brought us to our knees, where back in 2008 a regional recession really did.”



The aftershocks of the U.S. recession in 2008 and some hardline business tactics by Whan’s predecessor helped lead to the loss of a large number of domestic title sponsors. The LPGA went from 24 cash-paying domestic events in 2008 to just 12 in 2011. The LPGA’s ability to capitalize on its popularity in Asia helped right the foundering ship that Whan inherited.

“We are tremendously more stable now,” said Jon Podany, the LPGA’s chief marketing officer. “Our revenues are up 60 percent or more over that time frame. I don't have the exact percentage of what portion comes from international investments with me right now, but it has to be over half.”

Whan was asked if he believes enough Americans understand the strength Asian players have given the tour’s financial foundation.

“From a business perspective, it’s 100 percent understood,” Whan said. “Back in 2009, even businesses were saying there was way too much Asian influence on tour. You would hear, `I don’t know anyone, and I don’t know how to pronounce their names.’ Even sponsors were saying that, but now sponsors are saying there’s a huge competitive advantage being so international. We’re not there yet from a fan base perspective. There is still that stereotype.”

But Whan says Asian players are changing that with the way they’re connecting with American pro-am partners, media and fans. The work Inbee Park, Ai Miyazato, So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi, Yani Tseng and others have done mastering English is making a difference.

“The good news is that with super overachieving athletes, you don’t have to force them to do much,” Whan said. “They know it’s in the best interests of both their games and their business.”

While the domination of international players in the LPGA ranks is still deemed a drawback by some American fans, the tour’s bottom line tells a different story. Podany said South Korean television agreements are still the LPGA’s top revenue source.

Lotte, JTBC, Kia, All Nippon Airways, Swinging Skirts and Yokohama are all Asian-based companies, but they’re all sponsoring LPGA events played in the United States. Lotte is a multinational conglomerate with headquarters in South Korea and Japan, JTBC is a South Korean television network, Kia is a South Korean-based car manufacturer, ANA is a Japanese airline and Swinging Skirts is a Taiwanese golf foundation.

Whan said the LPGA’s variety of international business support is like having a diversified portfolio. It has helped the LPGA survive economic issues in the United States, Canada and even in Asia.

“Now if the U.S. hiccups, it doesn’t stymie the LPGA like it did back in 2008 and ’09,” Whan said.

Whan said Yokohama is an example of how the LPGA’s growing popularity internationally has helped domestic growth, too.

“In the past, the LPGA might have looked at Yokohama as a good company to sponsor a Japanese tournament,” Whan said. “And now we look at Yokohama as a worldwide tire company that has multiple headquarter locations. So, let’s talk to Yokohama about where things work for their business, not the other way around.

“We met with Lotte not looking for Hawaii. We met with Lotte looking for Lotte. Hawaii turned out to be a good place to create something pretty significant on the schedule. Also, a lot of our international events, we don’t want to have more than one event in certain countries [where other nations have their tours]. We don’t want to show up and play on somebody else’s home turf 12 times.”

Podany said the global nature of the LPGA’s membership and the tour’s international television reach has changed sponsorship possibilities. With intense interest in the LPGA in South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries, and with LPGA events broadcast there, the tour has become a vehicle for Asian companies to reach audiences no matter where the event is actually played.

“In some cases, companies are trying to make stronger inroads in North America, and so they are using the LPGA as a vehicle to help build their businesses here,” Podany said. “In other cases, they may not have had a big presence here before, and they are doing it because of how big the LPGA has become in Asia, because of how TV is distributed around the world and because we have such a strong digital following in Japan, Korea and other Asian countries.”

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"Vantage Point with Mike Tirico" set to debut Tuesday, July 17 at 9 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJuly 17, 2018, 10:15 am

Special Hour Complementing the Network’s Week-Long Golf Central Live From The Open News Coverage; Premiere Scheduled to Include Interview with 2014 Open Runner-Up Rickie Fowler On-Site from Carnoustie

Features Include Tirico and Curtis Strange Re-watching ’99 Open at Carnoustie & Jim “Bones” Mackay Facilitating Exclusive Conversation with Caddies Michael Greller, John Wood Recounting Final Round Pairing at 2017 Open

To help set the table ahead of The 147TH Open at Carnoustie, Golf Channel will premiere Vantage Point with Mike Tirico on Tuesday, July 17 at 9 p.m. ET. An extension of the network’s week-long Golf Central Live From The Open comprehensive news coverage, Vantage Point will revisit landmark moments in The Open’s history, uncover personal stories relevant to the fabric of the week and feature a roundtable discussion with past “Champion Golfers of the Year” on golf’s original championship.

“It’s a thrill to be going back to The Open again this year, which is a fitting setting to launch this new opportunity,” said Tirico, NBC Sports host who this week will celebrate his 22nd consecutive year covering The Open. “I love being a part of the Golf Channel team during golf’s biggest weeks, and anticipate contributing to our commitment to great storytelling with Vantage Point.”

Kicking off the premiere of Vantage Point will be Tirico’s exclusive interview with 2014 Open runner-up and 2015 PLAYERS champion Rickie Fowler on-site from Carnoustie. One of Fowler’s favorite events, he has missed just one cut in eight previous appearances at The Open. Other highlights within the show include:

  • Jim “Bones” Mackay facilitating an exclusive conversation between caddies Michael Greller (Jordan Spieth) and John Wood (Matt Kuchar) recounting the final round pairing at The Open last July.
  • Tirico hosting a roundtable discussion with past “Champion Golfers of the Year”: David Duval, Tom Lehman and Justin Leonard.
  • A recollection of one of the most unforgettable collapses in major championship golf, when Jean van de Velde surrendered a three-shot lead on the 72nd hole in 1999 at The Open. Tirico and Curtis Strange – both on the live tournament broadcast that year for ABC/ESPN – recently re-watched the telecast together for the first time since calling it live.

 

“This is harder to watch than I thought it was going to be. I’ve never seen anything like

that in my life. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like that again.” – Curtis Strange

 

“I think I got caught up in the whole deal and felt human for the guy.” – Mike Tirico

 

Vantage Point with Mike Tirico will complement the network’s Golf Central Live From The Open, which will feature nearly 60 hours of comprehensive news coverage from Carnoustie. In total, NBC Sports will dedicate more than 350 hours to showcasing the third men’s major championship of the year, including nearly 50 live hours of the network’s Emmy-nominated tournament coverage – annually the most live hours of coverage from any golf event – spanning from Thursday’s opening tee shot to Sunday’s final putt.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 8:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 17, 2018, 8:40 am

Tiger Woods is competing in his first Open Championship since 2015. We're tracking him this week at Carnoustie.


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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 8:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.