The announcement by the LPGA this week that it will hold its Tour Championship at the Grand Cypress Golf Club in Orlando Dec. 2-5 is good news in that it removed the dreaded "TBA" from the event on the schedule, but it is also a decision fraught with problems. For one thing, the season-ending event comes seven weeks after the last full-field event -- the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge in Danville, Calif. Oct. 14-17. It also is three weeks after the penultimate tournament, a gap which has many international players upset and wondering how they will bide their time when they would rather go home.
For pretty much any LPGA member outside the top 40 or 50 on the Rolex Rankings it will be a long wait between events. After the CVS, the tour goes to Malaysia, Korea and Japan -- events that have fields of about 70 players -- before going to Mexico for the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, which has 36 players. A lot of players are going to have a lot of time off.
The Tour Championship, which was in Houston last year even though sponsor Stanford Financial defaulted on the event when its CEO was arrested for fraud, was originally scheduled to be the week after the Mexico event. Another problem for the Tour Championship is that with a field of 120 there is no way play can be completed in the short daylight of December. That was the case last year in Houston. But with so few full-field domestic events -- 12 if you count the three U.S.-based major championships -- the tour clearly wanted to add another full-field tournament.
As it did last year, the tournament will have two cuts: to low 70 and ties after 36 holes and then to low 30 and ties after 54 holes. Up through 2008, the LPGA season ended with the ADT Championship at Trump International in West Palm Beach, with a 32-player field with cuts to 16 players and then eight with a $1 million prize for first place and $100,00 for second.
The drama of that compelling format, a great course in Trump International and a more than willing sponsor in ADT were lost when then-commissioner Carolyn Bivens decided to give the season-ending date to Stanford Financial. How'd that work out?
The mere name "Tour Championship" implies players have earned their way into the event. Having a field of 120 devalues that, especially since only the top 80 on the money list get cards for next year. That means there will be some in the Tour Championship who will be driving to Daytona Beach the day after the Tour Championship to play in the LPGA Q school final, which begins Dec. 8.
*-- Ron Sirak