At first glance the LPGA’s loss of Stanford Financial as the title sponsor of November’s season-ending Tour Championship might induce panic. It’s a big tournament, in a primo spot on the schedule, and the company also had a personal representation deal with a young star, Morgan Pressel. But this is not a problem of the tour’s making, and it has dealt with a similar situation before. In 1992 Phar-Mor underwrote two title sponsorships, a big bonus pool and several personal-representation contracts. When the company was brought down by scandal there was some tourwide pain, and the personal deals were settled for pennies on the dollar, but everyone survived.
The good news this time is that while Stanford is out, IMG is still involved in the event. That connection, along with the tournament’s strong field, network TV deal and preholiday shopping season date make this a very good opportunity for a title sponsor. It should be a fixable problem.
With Tiger’s return there’s been much talk about golf’s reliance on one or two big stars — Woods on the PGA Tour, Lorena Ochoa and Michelle Wie on the LPGA. But this is nothing new. There was Arnie and then Jack. The LPGA relied pretty heavily on a gal named Nancy. The NBA also had this guy Michael Jordan. Star power fills seats, lines fairways and sells TV time. No great crime there.
What is a crime, however, is not realizing the importance of having rivals to those great stars. The NBA wouldn’t be where it is without Larry Bird playing off Magic Johnson. Jack pushed Arnie, and then Tom Watson pushed Jack. Tiger gets a nudge from Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim. And Tiger’s newest would-be rivals have emerged, and they are amazing: Rory McIlroy, Danny Lee and Ryo Ishikawa. Anyone who doesn’t appreciate their rise is missing out.
Of course, from an American standpoint, I am a bit concerned. Who’ll be next up for the red, white and blue? No one stands out. Paula Creamer says the Americans simply need to work harder. I couldn’t agree with her more.
Dottie Pepper, a 17-year LPGA veteran and an analyst for NBC and Golf Channel, welcomes letters at [email protected]