WORD IS the LPGAwill soon announce a new, limited-field event in China to be tacked onto theschedule this fall. That means two of the first four events and four of thelast five on the 2008 slate will be played outside the U.S., making itdifficult for fans—and just as important, U.S. businesses—to remain connectedto the tour When Carolyn Bivens (above) became commissioner in September 2005,one of her mandates was to add full-field domestic events. She has added eightU.S. tournaments (six full-field), while bringing in three foreign events (nonefull-field), but as many as four domestic events could disappear in '09. Theplayers are getting anxious, especially as negotiations for new TV deals begin.True, the economy has changed since Bivens took over. With the declining dollarit's easier for a foreign sponsor to put up a large purse, but the cost ofbroadcasting overseas events in the U.S. is hard to justify, and that means theU.S.-based tour is in danger of falling off the radar for its fan base. Why notwait for an economic turnaround, then sell the LPGA's strengths at home:accessible athletes, year-round charitable impact and one of the best values insports marketing? These go over well in small- to medium-sized cities where thetour can build a long-term foundation. Frequent-flier miles aren't all they'recracked up to be, but steady, solid growth is.
IT'S TIME forLorena Ochoa (below) to be mentioned among the likes of Tiger Woods, Tom Bradyand Roger Federer. She has dominated the tour for the past 2 1/2 seasons,collecting 17 victories, two majors, two player-of-the-year trophies and agaping lead in the world ranking. At 26 she's only one point shy of qualifyingfor the World Golf Hall of Fame—five years before she is eligible forinduction. Go see her play in person while you still can. She says she'll pareback her schedule to focus on the majors. She has also said that competitivegolf is not her long-term priority. She wants a family and her philanthropicwork with children in Mexico to take center stage in her life. I don't know ofa better role model, and I hope she sticks around, for the LPGA's sake and forsports in general.
DAVID WALBERG (PEPPER)
SCOTT HALLERAN/GETTY IMAGES (BIVENS)
LPGA veteran Dottie Pepper is an analyst for NBC and Golf Channel.
ROBERT BECK (OCHOA)