SBD/January 8, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

LPGA Tour Announces Season-Long Points Race To Culminate In $1M Payout

The LPGA and CME Group today announced that they have partnered to create the "Race to the CME Globe," a season-long points competition that will debut during the '14 LPGA season. Players will accumulate points at each official LPGA event before coming to a conclusion at the newly renamed CME Group Tour Championship. The winner of that event will take home a $500,000 first-place prize, while the player who wins the Race for the CME Globe will receive a $1M payout -- the largest in all of women's golf (LPGA). GOLFCHANNEL.com's Randall Mell notes the LPGA "isn't calling its new points race a playoff, but the season-finale will have a post-season feel with two trophies at stake." The LPGA will "award 500 points to all the winners of its regular events with 625 points going to the winners of its major championships." Points will be "awarded to the top 70 players and ties at every event with a cut." The top 72 players on the points list after the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, the season's penultimate tournament, will "earn the right to play in the CME Group Tour Championship." The top nine players "will go to the season finale with a chance to win" the $1M top prize. Before the start of the CME Group Tour Championship, the points "will be reset, with the season-long leader reset to 5,000 points, second place reset to 4,500 points, third place to 4,000 with fewer points continuing down the line." Only the "top three point earners going into the season finale control their destiny" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 1/8).

WAY TO MAINTAIN INTEREST: Golfers Brittany Lincicome and Lexi Thompson appeared on this morning's episode of NBC's "Today" to discuss the new endeavor, and Lincicome said, "It's going to be great for fans. It's going to give them something to look forward year. The men have the FedExCup, the points system, and now we're going to have our own little system" ("Today," NBC, 1/8). Golfer Morgan Pressel added, “Some of the other tours have had some success with the Race to Dubai and the FedExCup, and it keeps people interested." She noted the Race to the CME Globe "gives us something to play for." Pressel: "I’d like to play for a million dollars. I’d like to have that chance.” LPGA CMO Jon Podany said, "There’s two components here that are important: One is to have more for our fans to follow throughout the year and really connect our season -- have a strong beginning and a strong end. Probably even more importantly: Having a really climactic finish at the CME Group Tour Championship" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 1/8).

LATEST SIGN OF GROWTH: USA TODAY's Steve DiMeglio writes the Race to the CME Globe is the "latest good news for a tour that was struggling mightily a few years ago." The LPGA this year "will feature 32 official events as well as the inaugural International Crown event." That is up from 28 events in '13 and 23 in '11. In addition, purses jumped from $48.8M in '13 to $56.3M; and televised tournaments "will go from 27 to 32." More than 350 hours of LPGA tournament golf will air on TV in '14, with 90% of that "going live." Two years ago, 70% of all "televised coverage was tape-delayed." Golfer Katherine Hull-Kirk said, "We're in the best position we've ever been in. We have more exposure in more countries these days. I couldn't be any happier than I am with where the tour is right now and it's only going to get better" (USATODAY.com, 1/8). Thompson said it is "amazing how much the tour has come along" since she turned pro in '10. Thompson: "Our fan base is growing and we’re getting more and more coverage." Lincicome added LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan is "doing a fantastic job going out and marketing us really well" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 1/8).

NETWORK COVERAGE THE NEXT FRONTIER: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Michael Smith notes one of the "most glaring holes" Whan sees is a "lack of broadcast network coverage of the women’s game," and he would "like to get to where the majors and a handful of other events are broadcast on NBC." Golf Channel execs cite the LPGA "as a staple of its live content throughout the year, but they say they’re open to considering opportunities when they arise." Whan said, "We need to continue to grow and network TV is one place to start. If we were playing six or seven weekends a year on network, it would not only benefit the LPGA and our players, but it also would be great for our Golf Channel partner. We would bring back a significant amount of casual fans. That’s the next frontier for us" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/6 issue).
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