Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Predicting the LPGA's 2009 Schedule

Sal Johnson reports some rumors about the LPGA's 2009 schedule that should interest Hound Dog, Ryan Ballengee, Bill Jempty, key LPGA online communities, and the rest of us who follow the LPGA closely. As Ryan points out, though, Jon Show's recent piece on the '09 schedule is the place to start.

Show doesn't foresee too many changes from the current schedule in 2009. He reports that the LPGA has committed to running the ex-Safeway International event in Phoenix the week before the Kraft Nabisco, that there's hope for the ex-Semgroup Championship in Tulsa which precedes the Michelob Ultra, and that the Wegmans in Rochester is looking for an extension. This is mostly consistent with what Johnson passes along, but Hound Dog puts the Wegmans (and the Farr) in prime time between the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women's Open, which leads me to believe that a deal is close to bring the LPGA back to western NY.

So let's review the big picture and focus on the gaps. In 2008, the LPGA started with an Asian-Pacific swing, moved to the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico in the spring, bounced all over the eastern U.S. till the beginning of summer, when it then moved to the midwest, Europe and Canada/Oregon, and back to the south, before finishing up in the fall with a limited-field Asian-Pacific swing and elite events in Guadalajara and Palm Beach. 2009 looks to be fairly similar, minus the midwestern swing--with the Farr moving earlier, the State Farm moving even earlier (to replace the Ginn tribute in preceding the LPGA Championship), and the NW Arkansas event moving back to September--and with the bouncing around the east being a little less Tigger-esque. Unless the Safeway Classic were to move after the U.S. Women's Open and before Evian, the bouncing around will move to the fall, as it would have to come between the NW AK event and the southern swing. I'm assuming the fall Asian-Pacific swing will pretty much remain as it was this season.

Unfortunately for the LPGA, this means that the beginning of the 2009 schedule has the most gaps. With the Fields gone, it's possible for a new Asian stop to follow the SBS in mid-February and precede the Thailand event in late February and another one to follow the HSBC event in early March and precede the MasterCard Classic in Mexico in late March. But if not, there are two early-season dead weeks that will make the run-up to the first major as choppy as it was this year. Other dead weeks--following the Kraft Nabisco, following the Ginn Open, and preceding the Michelob Ultra--suggest that April is indeed the cruelest month. With the Stanford International most likely moving to Houston and becoming a season-ending event to replace the ADT Championship for 2009, the LPGA must be furiously searching for southern or mid-Atlantic events for that part of the spring. At the very least, a tune-up event before the Michelob Ultra is a must.

Apparently the LPGA will announce its schedule on Wednesday. I'm hoping they'll be able to bring some new life to those early-season dead weeks, as resurrection is out of the question for the Fields, the Corona, the Ginn Tribute, and the ADT. But I'm not holding my breath.

[Update 1 (4:19 pm): More leaks coming out today. The Tulsa World reports that the Tulsa event is dead in 2009, the LPGA confirms the Michelob Ultra is back, and Geoff Shackelford suggests that Show's source is spinning like a dervish.]

[Update 2 (11/19/08, 4:44 am): Show got mentioned by the New York Times!]

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