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LPGA adds four tournaments to schedule
January 11, 2012

The LPGA Tour begins its new season with four additional tournaments and a lot more reason for optimism.

Just as it looked as though the tour would suffer irreparable harm from the economic downturn, Commissioner Mike Whan delivered a schedule of 27 tournaments worth $47 million (36.8 million euros) in prize money, signaling a strong recovery.

Three of the new tournaments announced Tuesday are in the United States, including the return of two popular events in Ohio and Virginia.

The biggest surprise was the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, which was not played a year ago. The LPGA is also going back to Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Virginia, a favorite course among players which was last played in 2009.

The tour previously announced new tournaments in Hawaii and Canada, along with sanctioning the Women’s Australian Open, which will kick off the new season Feb. 9-12 at fabled Royal Melbourne Golf Club.

Another improvement to the schedule is the elimination of long periods of inactivity.

Last year, the LPGA was coming off its first major championship—the Kraft Nabisco Championship, won by Stacy Lewis—when it took three weeks off before its next tournament. Even with a global schedule in which tournaments will be played in a dozen countries, the LPGA will not go more than two weeks without playing in 2012.

It might also get more attention for the U.S. Women’s Open, which was held a week before the men’s British Open the last three years. This year, the Women’s Open will be played July 5-8, two weeks before the British Open.

The Women’s British Open, meanwhile, was moved back a month in part because of the London Olympics. It will be held at Royal Liverpool on Sept. 13-16.

The LPGA goes to Australia, Thailand and Singapore in consecutive weeks to start the year.

The first U.S. tournament will be the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup outside Phoenix in March—and this time the players will actually get paid. A year ago, the tournament had a mock purse in which the earnings were applied toward the LPGA money list, but the money actually went toward a charity program to honor the tour’s founders.

Whan said the LPGA was able to renew eight of the nine tournament contracts that ended in 2011, and 10 of its 11 marketing agreements. The one tournament it lost was the State Farm Classic in Illinois.

Along with the new tournaments, Whan said the North American events will get live television coverage on the Golf Channel on weekends, instead of being shown on tape delay.

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