The LPGA is digging itself out of a formidable financial hole an inch at a time, but there are indications the tour is making progress. The LPGA Tour Championship still doesn't have a title sponsor -- it was supposed to be Stanford Financial Group but they are too busy being indicted for investment fraud -- but it now has a presenting sponsor for the Nov. 19-22 event at the Houstonian Golf & Country Club. Rolex, a long and strong supporter of women's golf, will pick up some of the tab for the season-ending event.
"Rolex has a long-standing history as a supporter in golf, and women's golf in particular," said Mark Steinberg, Senior Corporate Vice President and Global Managing Director, IMG Golf. "We're thankful that they once again have demonstrated their commitment to the game at this important time as presenting sponsor of the LPGA Tour Championship. Rolex always has been synonymous with performance and prestige, making their brand a perfect fit for the LPGA Tour Championship which represents those same qualities for the players on the LPGA Tour."
Indeed, in addition to being the official timepiece for the LPGA, the watchmaker sponsors the tour's Player of the Year Award, Rookie of the Year Award and presents a Rolex to each first-time winner on tour. Rolex is also a corporate partner for many other golf tournaments, including the men's British Open and the women's Evian Masters.
"Our goal is to be associated with the absolute best in women's golf and to contribute to the development of women's golf around the world," said Bruno Meier, CEO, Rolex SA. "This announcement reinforces the strong relationship Rolex shares with the LPGA. With all the talent in the global game today we see a strong future in women's golf."
The LPGA Tour Championship will take on a new format this year. Play will begin with a field of 120, will be cut to low 70 and ties after 36 holes and then cut again to low 30 and ties after three rounds. The purse is $1.5 million. The Tour Championship replaces the ADT Championship on the LPGA schedule.
The ADT, played at Trump International in West Palm Beach, Fla., was a uniquely exciting format in which 32 players competed for a $1 million first prize (only $100,000 for second) with a cut to 16 (with no ties) after 36 holes and another cut to eight (with no ties) after 54 holes. The tour owns the rights to that event and hopes to bring it back when a sponsor and venue are found.
The LPGA Tour Championship with be the tour's 27th and final event of 2009. Two years ago there were 35 tournaments. As of now, the LPGA has 17 events under contract for 2010, two of which - the LPGA Championship (owned by the tour) and the LPGA Tour Championship (owned by IMG) -- do not have title sponsors.
-- Ron Sirak