The '12 LPGA tour season gets under way this week with the Women's Australian Open, one of “four additional tournaments on the 2012 schedule that have helped nudge momentum in a favorable direction,” according to Doug Ferguson of the AP. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said, "It took a year to take us from negative momentum to positive momentum, and the next year to turn that positive momentum into success." Whan measures success by “a 39 percent increase in television viewers in the United States, and by 26 percent overall.” Ferguson reported the LPGA was “able to renew eight of the nine tournament contracts that ended in 2011.” There also “no longer are large gaps in the schedule," as the LPGA will “not go more than two weeks without playing.” Whan said that top-ranked player Yani Tseng is “appealing enough through sheer skill to carry the tour, though he doesn't think that will be the case.” The LPGA “goes all over the world now, and there are home stars on every continent.” Whan: "Yani is rewriting the record book, but the chase pack is interesting. I think we're almost past a single-player thing, at least on the LPGA. I think we're so much at a stage where there are regional stars." (AP, 2/6). GOLF WORLD’s Ron Sirak writes this season begins “with a bunch of compelling questions.” Sirak: “Will Yani Tseng build on her seven-win, two-major 2011 campaign? If so, who will run with her and challenge to be the best on tour? What is a reasonable expectation for Lexi Thompson? And will Mike Whan get the 30-event schedule he craves for 2013?” Thompson, who turns 17 on Friday, “doesn’t need to win for this year to be a success -- she just needs to safely keep her card.” Whan’s plan to get 30 tournaments -- which “seemed remote a year ago when he articulated it -- is now well in reach with the schedule climbing from 23 to 27 events this year and a 28th likely to be added before the end of the year” (GOLF WORLD MONDAY, 2/6).
Leagues and Governing Bodies
The "ridiculous pace of the post-lockout season has assured that NBA owners will get 33 of their usual 41 home dates to ease the hit on their precious bottom line," but the "rest of us are paying for it," according to Mark Potash of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Potash writes, "Too many games. Not enough practice. Too many injuries. Not enough days off. Did NBA owners really think their product wouldn’t suffer by forcing teams to play 25 or more regular-season games in 58 days after training camp opened -- after having no organized offseason activities and two preseason games?" While the money is "rolling in again," owners are "facing a quality-control issue they don’t want to hear about: The bad teams are getting worse, and the good teams aren’t getting any better." NBA Commissioner David Stern’s "mistake was rushing into the marketable Christmas Day opening tip." He "should’ve insisted on a normal training camp and preseason, followed by a 50- to 54-game season." Potash: "The shame is that the owners weren’t willing to pay their share of the price for the lockout" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/8). In Cleveland, Tom Reed wrote, "Welcome to the post-lockout NBA, where all the Blake Griffin dunk highlights in the world cannot cover for the overall poor quality of play." The league and the players union "should have opted for a more manageable schedule instead of cramming 66 games into 123 days." But everybody "wanted their money." Reed: "The good news is the television ratings are strong and fans appear willing to overlook some errant passes and missed jumpers" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 2/5). The Chicago Tribune's Bob Foltman said, "This schedule is killing these players and it’s hurting the product. I think the NBA has done a complete disservice to its product with the way that they’re running this season” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 2/6).
NEED A REPLAY: The NBA acknowledged that official Scott Foster made an incorrect goaltending call during the fourth quarter of the Thunder-Trail Blazers game Monday that cost the Blazers two points on the way to an OT loss. The call currently cannot be reviewed during the game, and in Portland, John Canzano writes the Blazers got what "amounts to an apology from the league office." However, what everyone "deserved was a league that is willing to stop the action, take a look at a replay, and make sure that the outcome is what [it] should be." Canzano: "I'm hopeful that what we have today is a league that knows it needs to join the modern sports world." Meanwhile, Canzano writes the NBA has a "credibility problem anyway when it comes to game officiating." The Tim Donaghy gambling scandal "hasn't gone away," and Stern "hasn't done enough to restore the confidence of consumers in his product." Canzano asks, "So if there's a league that should be interested in casting light in dark places and ensuring that the games are called fairly, shouldn't it be the NBA?" (Portland OREGONIAN, 2/8).
In San Diego, Tim Sullivan writes when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he wants "to keep our franchises where they are," he is "not making a commitment, but outlining a best-case scenario." What Goodell is leaving out is that scenario is "predicated on the league wielding its leverage for further contributions from John Q. Public." Goodell has "succeeded in planting the seed of stability, while withholding the watering." He has done "exactly what he is paid to do -- to protect the interests of the owners who hired him and enhance the value of their franchises." Sullivan writes the "political genius of Roger Goodell is to make preferences sound like promises and to leave unspoken threats to your imagination" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/8).
LOSING GAMES IN EUROPE? In N.Y., Larry Brooks noted the Premiere Games in Europe that have "opened the NHL season the past five years could be a casualty of collective bargaining," though league and NHLPA sources have said that the sides are "attempting to strike an agreement under which the matches would be scheduled." The uncertainty over whether the '12-13 season will begin on time "given the Sept. 15 expiration date of the CBA has at least for the time being prevented scheduling of the games, with the parties as yet unable to agree on the parameters regarding revenue allocations and risk should the matches be canceled" (N.Y. POST, 2/5).
IMPORTANCE OF DIGITAL MEDIA: AD AGE's Abbey Klaassen in an interview with PGA Tour CMO Tom Wade asked what the Tour's "digital-media priorities" are. Wade responded, "We are trying to basically make our sport cool, and to do that you have to be on the cool platforms. Unlike an arena or a stadium sport where if you watch the broadcast, you are seeing pretty much everything that happens in the game, in golf we have 144 players. We have 144 balls that are spread over 100-plus acres, and we really only have time on TV to cover the players that are competing to win the championship. ... So one of the ways digital is more of an upside for us than other sports is we're able to bring a fuller range of the content to fans than is accessible now" (ADAGE.com, 2/6).