Thursday, January 27, 2011

LPGA's Leading Ladies Sure Know How to Negotiate

I love what Paula Creamer is doing about the Founders Cup. As Randall Mell summarizes, she's basically questioning why RR Donnelley can't afford to either put up the entire "mock purse" of $1.3M for charity or split it between the players and charity. And, like Cristie Kerr, Michelle Wie, and Morgan Pressel, she's refusing to commit to the tournament until she gets some answers. Since players have until March 8th to decide, that's a long time for the title sponsor to be on the hot seat.

I think Creamer's approach is a lot smarter than Suzann Pettersen's decision not to play in Phoenix this year. Pettersen has lost whatever negotiating power she might have had by refusing to hold out the carrot of possible participation to RR Donnelley and being super-vague on camera about her reasons for going to the stick instead. Kerr, meanwhile, still has a chance to articulate what it would take to get her to play. So far, her vague concerns about process and format don't put any serious pressure on RR Donnelley to make any changes. Hopefully she's being more focused and aggressive in private.

With Ji-Yai Shin, Ai Miyazato, Na Yeon Choi, Juli Inkster, Angela Stanford, Christina Kim, and Brittany Lincicome, among others, already committed, it's not like the event is going to be a big bust, as Sal Johnson seems to believe. Heck, if a few big names decide to boycott the event, it just opens up spots for lower-status players on tour to put themselves in position to qualify for more real-money events. Hound Dog's analysis is still on target.

Me, I'll bet there's even time for some sort of compromise to be worked out, if not this year, then by next year. For instance, it might be worth exploring whether the tournament proceeds could continue to go to the LPGA Foundation to support LPGA-USGA Girls Golf as originally planned, but that an equally large sum of money could be equally divided among all the players in the field for them to donate to the charities of their individual choice. (Or perhaps instead RR Donnelley could make the donation directly to those charities in the players' names, if they need the tax write-off that badly.) That's still a bargain for the title sponsor, who could probably afford to go in for a real purse of the same size as the other 2 sums. Heck, RR Donnelley could make it simple and guarantee $300K to the LPGA Foundation, $300K to the players' charity choices, and $300K to a real purse the 1st year, up each sum by $100K each of the next 2 years, and still pay less to get the LPGA's top players than most other events on the schedule of a comparable field size. That would be a huge step up from what they'll be competing for on the Cactus Tour this year in the Phoenix area, that's for sure.

[Update 1 (1/29/11, 12:18 am): Add Ya Ni Tseng, Natalie Gulbis, and Kristy McPherson to the committed list. And Morgan Pressel to the list with serious reservations. Pretty cool that the tour is having each player designate a charity she's playing for and dividing $200K among the top-5 finishers to donate to theirs, as Randall Mell reports.]

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