LPGA will be much leaner after coronavirus pandemic, says tour commissioner

LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan says the coronavirus pandemic will have a “staggering” impact on the organisation’s finances.

A new-look LPGA schedule was unveiled on Wednesday, with the tour now hoping to resume with the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational in Michigan on July 15.

The Evian Championship in France – one of five majors in the women’s game – remains scheduled for August 6-9 despite French prime minister Edouard Philippe recently announcing an extension to the country’s ban on sporting events until September.

The second major of the year, the AIG Women’s British Open at Troon, also remains on the rejigged calendar from August 20-23, but Whan says plans are in place for all three European events on the schedule to be played without fans if necessary.

“It’s a staggering financial impact year,” he said. “It doesn’t take us to our knees. It doesn’t put us on a death watch.

“We’ve saved more money in the last 10 years than in the 60 years before, but it’s possible in 2020 we could eat up most of the savings we saved in the last 10 years in 10 months.

“We can afford what 2020 is going to throw at us, but we’ll definitely come out of this a much leaner LPGA than we were when we walked into 2020.”

Asked whether discussions around keeping the three events outside of the United States on the calendar had taken longer given the logistical challenges of international travel in the current climate, Whan responded: “In France and in Scotland, right now the gather restrictions are still pretty tight, so we’ve got some plans to play fan-free events in those markets.

“Will we have to play those fan free? We’ll decide those about mid-July, about 45 days before we would be heading to those events.

“We’re going to decide in mid-to-late June the final decision and how we play, if we play each of those events.

“The good news is with where we’re playing all three of those, that’s much more doable than if we have an event in Paris or London. Troon or Evian, France, is a little easier for us if we didn’t have fans to control the size of the footprint out there and really stay within gather limitations of either of those regions.

“Whenever you talk about any one of those three events, they’re very supportive and interested in figuring out a way to get them done.”

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley reportedly sent a memo to players earlier this month warning that tournaments could look very different post-pandemic, with courtesy cars and player lounges likely to be scaled back and prize funds decreased.

Whan revealed that sponsors of tournaments which will not be held in 2020 had provided some prize money, allowing the LPGA to increase tournament purses for those events still scheduled to take place.

However, he added that players he had spoken to were supportive of scaling back on other tournament costs.

Whan said: “I can tell you to a player, and I’m sure the same is true in Keith’s world even though I don’t talk to a lot of European Tour players, I don’t think that comes as a surprise to anybody.

“Everybody not only expects life to be different, I would tell you with my tour players who I talk to pretty regularly they hope things are going to be different.

“They don’t want to come out to an event that’s going to look like Covid-19 never happened. They want us to be cautious. They want us to protect the volunteers that are part of this. They want us to protect fans if they’re going to be there and people in those marketplaces.

“So courtesy cars and our pro-am formats are probably going to change quite a bit. Those are all things that I think not only aren’t a problem, I think we’ve all gained perspective in Covid.”