Truth & Rumors: LPGA pros to play for free?

The 2011 LPGA Tour schedule will be released today, and Golfweek's Beth Ann Baldry says to expect a major twist.

The inaugural Founders Cup, designed in the spirit of pioneering LPGA founders, will be a charity-driven event in which players receive financial help for travel expenses, but don’t take home a paycheck. Sources say the three-day tournament will be in Phoenix at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge on March 18-20, kicking off the tour’s domestic schedule. The move fills a key market for the LPGA, which attracted record crowds at nearby Superstition Mountain when Safeway was sponsor of the former event.
Players still would receive official “money” and points toward rankings, the Hall of Fame and season-ending awards. They’d just give whatever money they earned back to charity.

It's an admirable idea, and I look forward to hearing more about it from Commissioner Mike Whan. (In-Kyung Kim may have inspired the idea after she donated all of her $220,000 check from the Lorena Ochoa Invitational to charity.) But some LPGA players may not be thrilled. It's relatively easy for established players with plenty of income to sign up, but it's a tougher assignment for those struggling to make a living on tour.  Buy! Buy! Buy!If you have an extra $1.5 billion, you can jump into the bidding for Fortune Brands' golf division, which includes Titleist, Footjoy and Scotty Cameron putters.

Fortune Brands Inc., planning a breakup of the company, selected Morgan Stanley to run an auction for its golf division in a sale that may fetch as much as $1.5 billion, said four people with knowledge of the matter.
Morgan Stanley may approach potential strategic acquirers such as Nike Inc. and Adidas AG, as well as private-equity firms and Asian companies such as Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd., which owns the Srixon golf-ball brand, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.
Fortune, also the maker of Jim Beam, announced Dec. 8 that it would split into three separate businesses and focus on distilled spirits, after activist investor William Ackman acquired a stake. The company will spin off its home and security division and sell or spin off the golf unit, which makes Titleist golf balls, Fortune said last month.

Sell! Sell! Sell!Japan may be home to one of the brightest stars in the game, Ryo Ishikawa, but the overall health of golf in Japan seems to be in shambles. I'm no Gordon Gekko, but when a company like Goldman Sachs stops investing in your business, it can't be good.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is selling its stake in Accordia Golf Co., ending an almost decade-long investment in the sport in Japan as player numbers fall.
A Goldman Sachs investment unit will sell 470,587 shares in Accordia, the Tokyo-based golf operator said in a statement today. The stake is worth about 37 billion yen ($445 million) based on today’s closing price. Accordia’s stock has lost 60 percent since Goldman Sachs took the company public in 2006.
Goldman Sachs spent more than 3 trillion yen since 1997 on assets in Japan, including golf facilities and office buildings. The nation’s golf-course industry has been in decline since an asset bubble burst 20 years ago, and is unlikely to return to its former glory as the population shrinks and the economy stagnates, said Daisuke Seki of IB Research and Consulting Inc.

Divine DesignsGood news for architecture buffs: a large collection of Robert Trent Jones blueprints and other artifacts are being donated to Cornell University.

Donated by his sons, Rees and Robert Trent Jr., the collection covers seven decades of blueprints, correspondence, finanical records and photographs from Jones, who graduated from Cornell in 1930 and was 93 when he died in 2000 having designed 325 courses in more than 25 countries, including the layout at Cornell.

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Ls_6389_nike-logo_normal @nikegolf: You never know who you'll see at the Nike Headquarters gym…@TigerWoods working out before his product mtgs