Monday, January 28, 2013

Ten Questions for the 2013 Season

As we approach the start of the 2013 season, there are a number of questions I am looking forward to getting the answers to. In reverse order, here are my top ten:

10- Can Morgan Pressel, who had a horrible second half of the season, bounce back and get enough points to make the Solheim Cup team?

 9-  Will Paula Creamer finally get back into the winner's circle, and hold up a trophy for the first time since winning the U.S. Open in 2010?

 8-  Can Lexi Thompson, who moved up 16 places in 2012 to her current #23 world ranking, take it to the next level and compete week in and week out with the elite players of the LPGA tour?

 7-  Will the trend of established stars from other tours winning the Rookie of the Year award continue (Chie Arimura will certainly be the favorite), or will someone else step up and surprise us?

 6-  Can Moriya Jutanugarn (who finished tied for first in the LPGA Q-School finale), and younger sister Ariya Jutanugarn (who won Q-School on the L.E.T), both win Rookie of the Year on their respective tours?

 5-  Can the United States win back the Solheim Cup?

 4-  Can Yani Tseng, who has seen her lead as the #1 player in the world shrink from 9.47 points to just 1.20 points, hold on to the top position?

 3-  Can Ai Miyazato finally break through and win a Major Championship?

 2-  Can an American finally win a Major Championship after being shut out last year?

 1-  Can Stacy Lewis repeat as Player of the Year?

These are just some of the questions that will be answered this coming season.
If anyone has a question of their own, please feel free to post it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

LPGA Announces International Crown Event For 2014

It has been a big month for announcements for the LPGA. This month they have already announced that new tournaments in Texas, The Bahamas, and China have been added to the 2013 schedule. They have now announced a new one for the 2014 schedule, The International Crown.

Here are some of the key details.

The tournament will make its debut in July of 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland, it will then be moved to Rich Harvest Farms, in Chicago Il. Rich Harvest Farms, as you might well remember, was host to the 2009 Solheim Cup.

Eight teams based on cumulative Rolex Rankings of each country's top four players at the conclusion of the 2013 CME Group Titleholders will qualify for the event. If teams for the Crown were selected according to the current Rolex Rankings, South Korea, the U.S., Japan, Sweden, Australia, Spain, Taiwan, and England would battle for the inaugural title.

The final field of 32 players will be determined after the Rolex Rankings have been published on the Monday of the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship week. At that point the top 4 ranked players' from each pre-qualified country will make up their country's team.

This will be a four day competition. It will feature three days of four-ball competition and one day of singles matches on Sunday. There will be a cut after the completion of Saturday's play, with only 5 teams moving on to Sunday.

Points will be awarded per match based on the following:
2 points for a win
1 point for a tie
0 points for a loss

The eight countries will be seeded #1 through #8, and will be divided into two brackets based on the cumulative team score of the four players Rolex Ranking on the Monday of the Kraft Nabisco Championship week.

Bracket A                 Bracket B
Country #1                 Country #2
Country #3                 Country #4
Country #5                 Country #6
Country #7                 Country #8

At the conclusion of the 3 days of four-ball competition the two teams with the most points from each bracket and one wild card team will advance to Sunday's singles matches.

My thoughts on this event:
Once again Commissioner Michael Whan's ability to think "outside the box," has led to another exciting tournament. This is the event we have all been waiting for. It will be played on even numbered years, as the Solheim cup is played in odd numbered years. Can you imagine a South Korean team made up of I.K. Kim, Na-Yeon Choi, Inbee Park, and So Yeon Ryu? It really scares me, but I will be looking forward to the challenges it will provide to all the other teams, and how they will react to that challenge.

Like everything else, this will have its imperfections. As I look at the Rolex Rankings, Suzann Pettersen will not be eligible because Norway doesn't have 3 other ranked players.

Monday, January 21, 2013

How Well Is Commissioner Michael Whan Doing?

In just three weeks the LPGA will begin its 2013 season with the playing of the ISPS Honda Women's Australian Open. It's about time! Unlike the men, there is a big gap between the end of one season and the beginning of the next. If you are an LPGA fan you had to wait twelve weeks. Twelve long weeks. In my opinion that is much too long. To be perfectly honest, it makes it tough for me to keep coming up with interesting material for this blog. My hope is that someday soon, with the help of our Commissioner Michael Whan, that period of inactivity will be cut in half.

Oh yeah, that brings me to the subject of this week's blog, Mr. Michael Whan.
Now on the job for three years, are we really satisfied with the job he is doing?
Let us take a look:

What were the circumstances that led to the hiring of Mr. Whan in October of 2009?
Michael Whan was hired on October 28, 2009 (took office January 4, 2010). He took over for the then Commissioner, Carolyn Bivens, who was forced out by several high-profile players. The LPGA was sinking at that point. Sinking very fast. In 2008, the tour had 34 tournaments (24 were domestic events), the 2010 schedule that Mr. Whan inherited only had 23 events on the schedule. It was hard economic times and Mr. Whan would have his work cut out for him.

What did we know about this man when he took over as commissioner? Did he appear qualified for the job?
We knew he was 44 years old, and he and his wife, Meg, and their three children made their residence in Lake Mary, Fl. He was a 1987 graduate of Miami (Ohio), University. He was the Executive VP/General Manager of North America TaylorMade Adidas Golf, from 1995-2000.
His most recent job was President/CEO of something called Mission-Itec Hockey.

I have to admit that I was skeptical at this point. Sure, he had an impressive resume. But was he qualified to take over the job of the sport that I love so much? More importantly, was he capable of turning around a sinking ship, and doing it quickly?

Now that the commissioner has had three years on the job, has he lived up to our expectations?
 In 2011 there were 23 tournaments on the schedule, the 2013 schedule shows 28. A 29th tournament on the west coast of the United States is a strong possibility.
The total prize money was  $40.5 million in 2011, it is $48.8 million in 2013.
Television ratings for  the LPGA has been up dramatically.
Television coverage in 2013 will be over 300 hours, more than ever before.
Most importantly, I have not heard the term "sinking ship" in quite some time. In fact I hear just the opposite.

Judge for yourself, I think the answer to the above question is quite obvious. I would certainly like for the readers of this blog to give their opinions, in the comments section.

Now that I have given you most of the facts regarding Mr.Whan during his time as commissioner, I would like to give you some of my observations and opinions.

As most of my readers know, my wife and I go to many of these tournaments every year. In fact we have attended approximately 30 tournaments in the last 5 years.
During this time we have made friends with many of the players. I can honestly say that I have never heard any player criticize the job that the commissioner is doing. The long worried faces we had observed 4 and 5 years ago, have been replaced with smiles of hope. Those smiles are contagious, and make for a much more fan friendly environment. There is no other sport like it. Not the PGA, the NFL, or MLB. If I told you I went to a New York Mets game and left my seat after the 9th inning to go down to speak to David Wright and company, you know I'd be telling a fib. But I am telling the complete truth by saying if you go to an LPGA event you have a pretty good chance that you will get to speak to stars like Paula Creamer, Stacy Lewis, and Yani Tseng, either before or after they played their 18 holes. Your kids will have an experience that they won't soon forget.

I also think that many people tend to look at the schedule and say, "Well we only gained one tournament this year so far." I can't tell you how many times I have heard that in the last week. What everyone who is saying that should realize is, that where it is true three new tournaments have been announced while losing two, I believe about 10 other contracts had expired and had to be renegotiated. So I think a big plus should go into the commissioner's column for retaining such a high percentage in these tough economic times.

Two things I would like to see more improvement on:
1) Media coverage in the local newspapers outside of where the tournament is being held, is almost non-existent. Living in the New York area, I read the New York Daily News and New York Post, two of the papers with the largest circulation in the country. On Monday morning I have to read 4 columns of a PGA story, 3 columns of a Seniors Tours results story, and a column of a men's European story to get to a six line story on the LPGA. That is if there is one there at all. I am not sure what advice to give the commissioner on this problem, but I would certainly like to hear what, if any, ideas he has on improving this situation.

2) More tournaments in the United States. Yes, Mr. Whan has made it clear that an international schedule benefits all. I agree, and there are so many reasons, too many to list. What I don't like are the percentages.
On the 2013 calendar 15 tournaments are in the U.S., 7 in Asia, 2 in Europe, 2 in Canada, 1 in the Bahamas, 1 in Mexico, and 1 in Australia. This is a U.S. based tour. Fifteen of 28 is a number that has to be improved upon. I don't want to lose any of those events outside the United States, I just want to see more here. Once again I know Mr. Whan is doing his absolute best in this dreadful economy, but improvement in this area is something I would want to see in the next several years.

To sum up my opinion on the job Mr. Whan has done to date, I will give him a rating of A-.
The reason I don't go higher, is that in the smallest chance he may read this article, I don't want to give him a big head. I like a commissioner that thinks outside the box, and Michael Whan does that.  Five majors? Many people are still scratching their heads over that one. They may change their minds when the tournament is being played to more TV time and more press coverage. Maybe there were other reasons also. Could he have been afraid of losing the Kraft or Wegman's and having only 3 majors left? I'll trust and support him on this one.
He was criticized when he added the RR Founders Cup a couple of years back. Many were critical that the girls had to play for charity but no prize money. Well that is now a full field event with a $1.5 million purse.

Michael Whan has improved the LPGA in every conceivable way that I could think of. I look forward to what he will do in his next three years.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Will Doug Ferguson please pick up the red courtesy phone.

So someone can tell the Associated Press reporter how little he knows about the LPGA Tour.
The LPGA Tour previously announced a new tournament in The Bahamas on May 23-26 and a return to Texas, its first official event in the Lone Star State since Meg Mallon won the U.S. Women's Open at Colonial in 1991. The North Texas LPGA Shootout will be April 25-28, three weeks before the PGA Tour arrives in town for its Texas swing.
Last time I looked Austin and Houston were in the Lone Star state. The LPGA Tour played official events in the former from 1999 to 2001 and in the Houston area in both 2003 and 2009.
and 2012 also saw the emergence of Na Yeon Choi, who won the U.S. Women's Open and the Titleholders.
Sorry Doug, but Choi emerged in 2010 when she won two golf tournaments plus took home the Vare Trophy for low stroke average and was leading money winner that year!
The biggest tournament on the schedule is the Solheim Cup
Doug Ferguson can't get something simple right. The Solheim Cup isn't a tournament, it's a 'is a biennial, trans-Atlantic team match-play competition'. I've picked on Doug Ferguson's inability to get facts straight before on multiple occasions. Here and here, are just two examples. Today's article might be his worst effort ever. Update- Ferguson's Texas mistake probably stems from here where it says ' It will also mark the Tour’s first stop in North Texas since the 1991 U.S. Women’s Open, won by 2013 U.S. Solheim Cup Team Captain Meg Mallon at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth'. Doug removed the North and added official. AP reporters have a habit of bollixing the facts when they copy from a source as I once pointed out here. Whatever the source, Doug Ferguson's writing was very careless.

Monday, January 7, 2013

2013 LPGA Schedule

Is this the week the LPGA will finally announce its 2013 tournament  schedule? Yes it is, but apparently they will tease us by doing it in stages.

The LPGA, and Commissioner Michael Whan announced today that the LPGA will be making its first ever official appearance in the Bahamas in 2013 with the playing of the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.

This tournament will take place May 23-26. It will be a full field event that will include four tournament rounds and 72 holes of stroke play. The purse will be $1.3 million, with coverage provided by Golf Channel.

The tournament will be played at the Tom Weiskopf designed Ocean Club Golf Course at The Atlantis in Paradise Island, Bahamas and will be supported by Pure Silk and The Islands of The Bahamas. Recently recognized as the #8 Resort Course in North America and the Caribbean by Golf Digest Magazine, the course has played host to several nationally-televised events, including the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational. 

Pure Silk also sponsors several players on the LPGA Tour including 2012 Rolex Player of the Year Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lincicome, Natalie Gulbis, Katherine Hull, Jeong Jang, and Brittany Lang.

Since Michael Whan took over the Commissioner's job, the LPGA has seen the number of tournaments grow from 23 in 2010 to 27 in 2012.

This announcement is the first in a series of new 2013 tournaments to be announced in the coming week.

I would recommend to readers of this blog to check back here daily this week, as I will be adding new information to this post as it becomes available.

Update #1 - 1/8/13 ... The LPGA announced today that Acer has been added as a Sponsor to the Shoprite Classic in Galloway, N.J. It will now be called The ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer.

Update #2 - 1/9/13 ....  Marathon Petroleum Corporation joins the LPGA family as title sponser of the Toledo, Ohio tournament. It will now be called The Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning & O-I. It will now be televised around the world via Golf Channel and the LPGA’s international television partners. It was not televised last year. Stay tuned to this blog, as the LPGA has promised big news in the next few days. .

Update #3 - 1/10/13..... This is a big one. The LPGA today announced its return to a region rich in golf history with the announcement of the North Texas LPGA Shootout, to be held April 25 to 28, 2013 at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas. The $1.3 million North Texas LPGA Shootout will host a full-field of 144 players playing 72 holes of stroke play over four days of competition

Update #4 - 1/15/13......The LPGA 2013 schedule has finally been released!
Here are the Highlights:

1- Three new tournaments added. Tournaments in China, Texas, and The Bahamas have been added to the schedule. As of now, The Navistar Classic and The Sybase Match Play Championship have been eliminated.

2- The number of tournaments has increased to 28 (does not include the Solheim Cup), 27 of them will be televised.

3- The CME Group Titleholders Championship contract has been extended through 2016.

4- The 2013 prize money will be increased to $49 million.

5- Golf Channel will televise more than 300 hours of tournament coverage, the most in the tour's history.

6- 2013 will be the first year where 5 majors will be played. The Evian Championship has become the 5th major.

Here is the link to the complete story:

Update #5 - Commissioner Michael Whan has just stated on the Golf Channel, that he hopes to add another tournament to the 2013 schedule in the next 30 days.