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Sports LPGA Tour seizing on more sponsor interest in women's sports

22:45  23 november  2021
22:45  23 november  2021 Source:   msn.com

Korda, Ko take their race to final event of LPGA Tour

  Korda, Ko take their race to final event of LPGA Tour NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Nelly Korda won tournaments nearly nine months apart, with a major and an Olympic gold medal in between. Jin Young Ko did her damage late, winning four times in the last two months. Each has four victories going into the CME Group Tour Championship, the season finale on the LPGA Tour with more than just $1.5 million at stake. They are separated by a mere 10 points in the race for LPGA player of the year, with Korda taking the lead with her playoff victory last week. Both have a chance to finish the year with a sub-69 scoring average, a feat accomplished only once on the LPGA Tour, nearly 20 years ago by Annika Sorenstam.

Ten years ago, the LPGA Tour had eight players earn at least $1 million in the season. One indication of how much has changed is Nasa Hataoka.

  LPGA Tour seizing on more sponsor interest in women's sports © Provided by The Canadian Press

The 22-year-old from Japan earned more than $1 million from two runner-up finishes this year.

They came at events with the two biggest purses on the LPGA Tour, the U.S. Women’s Open and the CME Group Tour Championship. Even so, it was an example of how much stronger the purses are, and now the LPGA Tour heads into a 2022 season where prize money is pushing $90 million.

This is what Mollie Marcoux Samaan takes over as she begins her first full year as commissioner. She spoke last week about the LPGA Tour being positioned for growth and that “this is our time.”

Nelly Korda has a new coach in middle of a breakout season

  Nelly Korda has a new coach in middle of a breakout season NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Nelly Korda won her first major championship, rose to No. 1 in the world for the first time in her career and topped it off by winning an Olympic gold medal. That didn’t stop the quest to improve, which is why she has a new coach. Fresh off her fourth LPGA Tour victory of the year, the 23-year-old American said she began working a few weeks ago with Jamie Mulligan, the longtime pro at Virginia Country Club in Long Beach, California, whose clientele most notably includes Patrick Cantlay. Korda said she “surfed around” for a new coach, an appropriate choice of words since Mulligan is a surfer at heart when he’s not doing his day job.

“I think people have also had an awakening around women’s sports,” she said. “And they said, ‘Wow, this is an undervalued asset out in the world. We need to accentuate that value.’

“So I think generally, because of the world’s focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, I think people have looked at women’s sports and said, ‘That’s an area in the world that there’s not a great deal of parity or a great deal of equity.’”

The LPGA just completed its 72nd season, with 15 players earning $1 million or more.

Terry Duffy, the CEO and chairman of CME, has been among the biggest proponents by providing the largest first-place check, at $1.5 million. The CME Group Tour Championship has raised its purse by $2 million next year to $7 million, with $2 million going to the winner.

Jin Young Ko delivers big finish to win LPGA player of year

  Jin Young Ko delivers big finish to win LPGA player of year NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Facing high stakes against her toughest opponent, Jin Young Ko delivered a performance that was close to perfect Sunday to win the richest prize in women's golf and overtake Nelly Korda for LPGA player of the year. Ko opened with a 25-foot birdie putt and never looked back in the CME Group Tour Championship. She shot 30 on the front nine and closed with the low round of the tournament at 9-under 63 for a one-shot victory of Nasa Hataoka of Japan. So flawless was Ko that she hit the final 63 greens in regulation at Tiburon Golf Club.

The LPGA Tour has 19 of its 34 official events with a purse of $2 million or higher, up from 15 such events five years ago.

The five majors have total prize money of at least $26.3 million, up from $18.7 million five years ago. Still to be determined is the U.S. Women’s Open, which has been looking for a presenting sponsor and could announce early next year a purse that will be the biggest in women’s golf.

It still has a big gap to close with the PGA Tour, where already 16 players have earned $1 million or more in just nine fall events to start the new season.

“We’re constantly looking at all levels of the tour. How do our top players do, financially, how do the middle players do, how do the bottom players do? We look at pay equity,” Marcoux Samaan said. "We look at the deltas between the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour, and the delta gets bigger as you go down the money list.

“I think if we can close that delta, and also if we can make sure that the top players in the world can make a living commensurate with their talent, I think that is a real big goal of ours.”

Leona Maguire thrives in star pairing for 62 to lead LPGA

  Leona Maguire thrives in star pairing for 62 to lead LPGA BELLEAIR, Fla. (AP) — Solheim Cup star Leona Maguire thrived in a star grouping Thursday with an 8-under 62 for a two-shot lead over defending champion Sei Young Kim in the Pelican Women's Championship. Maguire played alongside Kim and Lexi Thompson. No one in the group made bogey at Pelican Golf Club on a day ideal for scoring. Maguire is still trying to become Ireland's first winner on the LPGA Tour. Her best result is a runner-up finish at tournaments in Michigan and Hawaii this year. For now, she happily is best known for going unbeaten in five matches to lead Europe to a Solheim Cup victory two months ago.

ONE MORE MOUNTAIN

Collin Morikawa has enjoyed a year worth celebrating. His three wins include a World Golf Championship, a second major at the British Open and his first European Tour win in the DP World Tour Championship to become the first American to win the Race to Dubai.

And the year is not over.

Next week is the Hero World Challenge, and while it’s an unofficial holiday event, world ranking points are at stake.

And for Morikawa, so is the No. 1 ranking.

According to projections by a world ranking specialist known on Twitter only as “Nosferatu,” Morikawa could reach No. 1 in the world if he were to win in the Bahamas. But not for long. With the formula involved, Jon Rahm would return to No. 1 a week later.

That would be OK with Morikawa. The 24-year-old Californian just wants to get there.


Gallery: 20 of the greatest female tennis players in history (Espresso)

Serena Williams hitting a ball with a racket: Serena Williams has dominated tennis for much of the past two decades, winning 23 major titles and four Olympic gold medals. She began playing tennis at age 5 on public courts in Compton, Calif., alongside her sister Venus, who would also become one of the world’s best tennis players. She won her most recent major title, the 2017 Australian Open, while pregnant. Now, at 39, she is still ranked seventh in the world. Teen phenom Coco Gauff is one of a long list of players to call Serena an inspiration.

“I am definitely aware of that,” he said. “Hopefully we can get there, even if it’s just for that one week. I’m sure we’re still going to have many chances, hopefully, come next year.”

Morikawa said getting to No. 1 in the world has been a goal as long he can remember, and it’s not an opportunity he takes lightly when he considers only 24 players have been No. 1 since the ranking began in 1986.

Nelly Korda overcomes triple bogey to win LPGA in playoff

  Nelly Korda overcomes triple bogey to win LPGA in playoff BELLEAIR, Fla. (AP) — Nelly Korda made such a mess of the 17th hole that missing what amounts to a tap-in barely registered. She made triple bogey and part of her couldn't help but think she had thrown away her chances in the Pelican Women's Championship. “I honestly lost hope,” Korda said. “I was like, ‘OK, just try to make a solid par’ — 18 is a really tough hole — ‘If you have a chance or birdie, then try and go after it.’ My caddie really kept me in the moment and I didn't give up. “Thank God I didn't.

“There’s been a lot of great players that haven’t and that just shows how tough it is,” he said.

END OF AN ERA

The CME Group Tour Championship was the end of the LPGA season, and it turned out to be a farewell of sorts on the broadcasting front.

Beth Hutter is stepping away from producing LPGA Tour coverage for the Golf Channel, wanting to spend more time at home with her young daughter.

Judy Rankin also says she's done with a full-time broadcast schedule. Rankin is a Hall of Fame player whose neighborly and authoritative voice has been a staple of LPGA events. She previously was at ABC and ESPN as a walking analyst during the peak years of Tiger Woods.

Fittingly, she was honored by Mollie Marcoux Samaan with the “Commissioner's Award,” which dates to 1991 as a way to honor those who have made unique contributions to the LPGA.

Along with her broadcasting, Rankin was the first player to surpass $100,000 in earnings, in 1976. She also was winning captain of the Solheim Cup in 1996 and 1998.

“I guess I’ve had the best front-row seat ever,” said Rankin, who turns 77 in February. ”The LPGA has been my neighborhood and I love this neighborhood. I’ve been really fortunate to have a second chance after being a player to spend so much time out here and to be friends with young players. It has really been extraordinary for me.”

Phil wins trophy, Langer wins Schwab Cup, Nelly wins stunner

  Phil wins trophy, Langer wins Schwab Cup, Nelly wins stunner PHOENIX (AP) — Phil Mickelson birdied three of the final holes Sunday to win the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, and Bernhard Langer held on to win his sixth PGA Tour Champions season points title. Mickelson shot a 6-under 65 at Phoenix Country Club, getting up-and-down from short of the par-5 18th for birdie to reach 19 under. He joined Jack Nicklaus as the only player to win four of his first six PGA Tour Champions starts. Langer, who battled back pain all weekend, struggled getting putts to fall as he labored through a 2-under 69.

KAPALUA FIELD

The Sentry Tournament of Champions had a 42-man field to start the year because of a pandemic-shortened 2020 that led the PGA Tour to extend qualifications to winners and anyone reaching the Tour Championship.

Now it’s back to winners only at Kapalua, and the field could be as large as 38 players.

Patrick Cantlay won three times this year, and eight other players won twice.

While the deadline to enter is still more than a month away, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson are the only ones not planning to be on Maui. McIlroy is starting his year in Abu Dhabi, while Mickelson (who hasn’t played Kapalua since 2002) has said his first stop would likely be The American Express in the California desert, where he is tournament host.

RISING SUN

The European Tour now embarks on its new name — the DP World Tour — so it was only appropriate that the first announcement was that it will add a tournament in Japan to its schedule. It will be the 51st country to host a tour event.

World tour, indeed.

The ISPS Handa Championship is set for April 21-24 at PGM Ishioka Golf Club in Omitama. It will be co-sanctioned with the Japan Golf Tour.

DIVOTS

BMW has signed a five-year extension through 2027 as title sponsor of the only PGA Tour postseason event that rotates. The BMW Championship will be at Wilmington Country Club in Delaware next year and return to Olympia Fields south of Chicago in 2023. ... Brooks Koepka, a free agent since Nike stopped making golf club, has signed a deal with Srixon. Koepka will be using the Srixon driver, irons and golf balls and play Cleveland wedges. He used the irons to win the Phoenix Open this year. ... The U.S. Amateur is going to Inverness in 2029. The club in Toledo, Ohio, most recently hosted the Solheim Cup this year.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Nasa Hataoka won $1.074 million for her runner-up finishes in the U.S. Women's Open and the CME Group Tour Championship. She won $645,000 for her two victories in the Marathon LPGA Classic and the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

FINAL WORD

“I’m going to set some high goals high. I always have. I’m going to set the bar as high as I can get and keep going.” — Collin Morikawa.

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For more AP golf coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Doug Ferguson, The Associated Press

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