Sunday, June 8, 2008

More LPGA Schedule Confirmations

Same Ron Sirak piece as the previous post confirms some of what we already knew.

First, about the ADT Championship:

[T]he ADT Championship, currently played in November at Trump International in West Palm Beach with 32 players competing for a $1 million first prize, will be moved to January beginning in 2010. Another tournament will replace its spot on the schedule to cap the tour season in November. The tour hopes to use ownership of the LPGA Championship and the ADT Championship as leverage to sell an 8-12 tournament package to a TV network.
Sirak is about a month behind on this reporting done by Jon Show, but good to hear a confirmation.

The LPGA Tour, though, is apparently not done making big changes to the schedule. On the back of two Asian swings, there may be more coming:
The tour has also indicated it has looked at holding events in Abu Dhabi and in India, which could be on the schedule as early as 2010. Currently, the largest revenue stream for the LPGA is Korean TV money and the second largest is TV money from Japan.
This is clearly bad news for many struggling US-based events. I think it would be a huge mistake for the Tour to turn its back on these events in lieu of riches in Asia and the Middle East. Again, this is a part of balancing the line between growing the Tour and remaining firm in its roots.

But, Bivens seems convinced that following the money will work:
"In formulating a schedule we've looked at Super Bowl week, March Madness, pro and college football, the PGA Tour playoffs. These are times when we can get more attention abroad than we do here."

Mid-market U.S. tournaments and mid-level players both have concerns over the new business plan. Costs for tournaments will increase in 2010 with what are now nominal sanction fees rising to a minimum of $100,000 to as high as $130,000 for existing tournaments and higher for new events. With 20 of the 33 tournaments on this year's schedule having purses of less than $2 million, there is also pressure from tour headquarters to increase prize money.

We've been talking about this for some time and it looks like the Tour is willing to forge ahead with or without some of these events. But, can it do this without a strong cast of players? After all, more and more events are becoming limited-field affairs. It is something that has angered a lot of PGA Tour players, but at least they have alternate field events with $4 million purses.

[Limited field tournaments] also mean (sic) fewer spots in the field for LPGA members at a greater number of events. The tournament in Haikou, China, this October, for example, will have only 53 LPGA members in the field, meaning a significant number of top-100 tour members will have no place to play that week.
Sirak also raises the possibility of creating a stronger profile for the Futures Tour and making it equivalent to the Nationwide Tour. But, with a small schedule, almost no significant purse money (you can more on the Hooters Tour), that would require an enormous "rebranding" and something that doesn't take quotes to explain - CASH.

Interesting proposals on the table for the future of the Tour, but I am yet to be convinced that they will all be realized with the kind of success Bivens projects. Still, given my skepticism about her first year as Commish and her successes after that, she may prove me wrong again.

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