LPGA Tour Announces 2011 Schedule

The LPGA Tour has finally released its schedule for this year. After weeks of negotiations, tour officials said there will be 25 tournaments in 2011, with only 13 in the U.S.

The tour, in explaining the delay, said it has been seeking to lock up more event sponsors. Overall, the additional time worked out for the better as the tour will offer $43.65 million in prize money, $3 million more than a year ago.

The season begins February 17th with the Honda LPGA Thailand followed a week later by the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore. These will be the first of 12 events (14 if counting the unofficial Brazil Cup and the Solheim Cup in Ireland) outside the U.S., one more than in 2010. Seven events will be held in Asia, two in Mexico and the others in Europe and Canada.

"We're pleased that golf's global tour was able to withstand the economic downturn by securing 23 of its existing 24 events from 2010," Commissioner Michael Whan said in a statement. "At the same time, we're thrilled to add new ideas and new tournaments in the United States, Taiwan and China."

The first domestic tournament will be held March 18-20 at Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Phoenix (Ariz.), and the players won't be competing for prize money. At the new LPGA Founders Cup, the prize money will go toward the LPGA Foundation that runs the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program. However, the money and other points the players would have earned will still be applied to the season-long money list, world rankings and award races.

Whan said of that tournament: "The heart and soul of the LPGA is embodied by its gifted and engaged players, who to this day still embrace the same primary responsibility established by the LPGA's founders - to leave the tour better than how they found it."

Added two-time tour winner Christina Kim: "Our bottom line that week will be to give back. I know we're playing fewer tournaments than five years ago, and now one of them we don't play for money, but we are not necessarily all about money. And we belong in Phoenix, and this is a great way to grow the game."

The first women's major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Rancho Mirage, Calif., will be held March 31-April 3. The LPGA Championship at Pittsford, N.Y, takes place June 23-26, with the third major, the U.S. Open, at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs July 7-10. The fourth and final major of the year is the British Open July 28-31 at Carnoustie in Scotland.

The players are generally pleased with how the 2011 schedule worked out, despite it having three two-week breaks. "Because of the economy, I think commissioner (Michael) Whan and his team did a great job to secure as many events as they did in 2010," said Yani Tseng.

"The addition of Taiwan and China events proves we are truly a global tour. And I think it's a tight schedule, which is good. Last year there were too many long, long breaks."

The season will end, once again, at Grand Cypress in Orlando, where the LPGA Tour Championship was played last year. The event November 17-20 has been renamed Titleholders, and replaces the LPGA Tour Championship. Instead of 120 players, however, the 75-player field will include the top-three finishers (not already eligible) in each of the 25 tournaments in 2011.