The Norman Transcript

National Sports

November 21, 2012

LPGA Tour ahead of the curve on worldwide travels

NAPLES, Fla. — Alarm bells went off when the best golfers no longer were Americans, whether the measure was a ranking or simply who kept winning the majors.

That was the LPGA Tour a generation ago.

It took awhile for the men to experience the same shift to a more global game, such as Europeans occupying the top four spots in the world ranking at the end of last year, or the Americans getting shut out of six straight majors. Or the time Lee Westwood, whose humor can be vastly underrated, was speaking at a dinner when he mentioned Steve Stricker winning the previous week at the John Deere Classic. Looking at PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, he said, “Nice to see an American win on your tour.”

The next cause for concern in women’s golf was having to leave home to build a schedule.

It looks like the LPGA Tour again was ahead of its time.

The women finished a whirlwind — not to mention worldwide — schedule over the last three months by going from Virginia to England to Alabama in consecutive weeks, and then ended its season with three straight tournaments that took them from Japan to Mexico to Florida.

This might not have been what Karrie Webb had in mind when she moved halfway around the world for a Hall of Fame career on the LPGA Tour. Her rookie season, there were 34 events on the LPGA Tour schedule, all but four of them in the United States. This year, 12 of the 27 official events were outside the country.

“I envisioned playing most of my career in the U.S.,” she said. “Even for me, coming from Australia, it was a bit of an adjustment. But I realized that’s where the money is. It will take many years to get the economy back to where it was for us to have a luxurious schedule in the U.S. There’s money in Asia and a lot of interest in golf. I was OK with it then. But learning more from being on the (LPGA) board, having Asian events helps the health of our tour.”

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