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Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Mike Whan

Tony spoke to former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez about the new joint venture partnership involving the LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour:

“I’m backing Mike Whan to make a real success of the new alliance. I like the LPGA Commissioner a great deal. I see him every year at Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio and he always impresses me.

Mike is very, very committed to women’s golf and the new joint venture can only bring positive rewards to the Ladies European Tour, which has been struggling with its finances for so long and with attracting sponsors.

It’s a positive move to have the two tours either side of the pond joining forces and I’m sure Mike will come up with the goods now. I’ve watched with interest as he’s made great strides with the LPGA in recent years.

He should be commended for the great job he’s done. He’s a sharp cookie with a real entrepreneurial instinct. I suspect that the new partnership will mean that his tour becomes a much more global affair with a lot more travelling involved for the American girls. In order to get the prize money increasing, it will be a case of have clubs, will travel for the players on both sides of the Atlantic.

A lot of people have been screaming out for equality between the sexes in top-level golf, that’s why last week’s CME Group Tour Championship had a massive prize fund of $5 million.

The season-ending event produced a spectacular finish with South Korean Sei Young Kim pipping Britain’s Charley Hull to the title after holing a 25-foot birdie putt at the last hole. I felt for Charley because that one stroke cost her an awful lot of money but, in the final analysis, it was a terrific advert for women’s golf.

Even the great Billie Jean King, who has done so much for equality between the sexes in top-level tennis, complimented the sponsors for putting up the prize fund they did.

The new joint venture is sorely needed by the cash-strapped Ladies European Tour. The massive difference in prize money between the men’s game and the women’s game, especially in Europe, was highlighted by the fact that the fourth-place finisher in this year’s FedExCup playoff series earned as much as the girls play for on the European Tour in the entire season. Wow! What a statistic that is.

I’m bound to think that underdog Europe’s stunning last-day performance that secured Solheim Cup victory over the Americans earlier this year also played a part in the LPGA Tour’s decision to join forces with their counterparts across the pond.

That Solheim finish got a lot of attention around the world. It was a very special event and a competition like that is always going to have positive ramifications in the long term.

It’s a bit like the Ryder Cup in the 1980s. We managed to turn a lot of heads by beating the American guys 30-odd years ago and everything snowballed from there. People love team events, you only have to see the huge worldwide interest in English Premier League soccer these days.

It’s almost like the fans have a home to go to. The tribal instincts come out in the supporters and they become totally besotted by the competition with their rivals.

Talking of team events, I’m hoping the Royal Melbourne course proves to be a real equaliser in next week’s Presidents Cup matches. It’s usually windy there and the big, open greens will suit the International players.

The only time the Internationals won the trophy was when the event was played at Royal Melbourne in 1998. The competition desperately needs a pick-me-up and a rare International victory would provide just that.

The last time the Americans were beaten, ESPN scrapped its final-day TV coverage in the States because it was clear defeat was coming. I just hope they don’t pull the plug in similar circumstances this time round.”