NAPLES, Fla. (AP)LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan no longer measures success by making it to the end of year disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. A schedule for 2021 he released Friday suggests the LPGA Tour came out stronger than ever.
The LPGA Tour has added two tournaments and didn’t lose any of the ones that had to cancel because of the shutdown.
Whan left little wiggle room for more interruptions with a schedule that starts Jan. 21 in Florida and ends with 10 months later with consecutive events in Florida. The first seven tournaments are all in the United States, with the Asia swing moving to the spring.
The 34 official events offer a record $76.45 million in prize money. The largest purse is the $5.5 million for the U.S. Women’s Open at Olympic Club the first week in June, while the largest payoff is the CME Group Tour Championship, which typically awards $1.5 million to the winner.
”We are recapturing the momentum that we had at the beginning of 2020 and we are excited about our future, which will include news of new title sponsors and several significant purse increases,” Whan said.
The LPGA had plenty of momentum a year ago when it announced a 34-tournament schedule. That was before the pandemic shut down the LPGA Tour just four tournaments into the season. It didn’t resume until late July, with two additional events using the ”Drive On” theme to fill some gaps.
The opening event is the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions on Jan. 21-24 in Orlando. A month later, instead of heading to Australia and Asia, the tour will have consecutive weeks in Florida before moving west for the Kia Classic north of San Diego, the ANA Inspiration as its first major in the California desert. After a week break during the Masters, the LPGA resumes with events in Hawaii and Los Angeles before going to Asia for three weeks.
Whan hopes that moving the Asia events back three months will be enough time for travel restrictions to be eased.
The U.S. Women’s Open goes to Olympic Club in San Francisco for the first time, while the Women’s PGA Championship will be a Atlanta Athletic Club and the Women’s British Open will be at Carnoustie.
The Founders Cup is leaving Arizona for the first time in its 10-year history, to Mountain Ridge Country Club in northern New Jersey. The LPGA has added a match play event and an event that will be co-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour. Details have not been announced on the new events.
Asia has three consecutive events in May and three more in October. Europe also has a stretch of LPGA golf for a month, with the two majors (Evian and the Women’s British Open) along with the Ladies Scottish Open and the new tournament with the LET.
The schedule includes the Solheim Cup on Labor Day weekend, to be held at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.