Originally created 07/10/02

New date for Women's Open puts a squeeze on LPGA majors



HUTCHINSON, Kan. -- Plans to have the U.S. Women's Open played every year during the Fourth of July weekend have fizzled, leaving the LPGA Tour in a predicament for scheduling its major championships.

While the U.S. Open ends every Father's Day, the Women's Open had hoped to build its own tradition by taking the first week in July.

But when the U.S. Golf Association selected Cherry Hills in Denver for the 2005 Women's Open, problems began to unfold.

Fans, potential volunteers and even club members usually go to the mountains for the holidays. Ditto for the 2006 tournament, expected to be played at Newport Golf Club in Rhode Island. Most people head for the beach during the Fourth of July.

"It makes it harder for those clubs to get the number of spectators we want," said Kendra Graham, director of rules and competition for the Women's Open.

It isn't just fans. Graham said that while Blackwolf Run in Wisconsin had a huge gallery in 1998, the corporate tents suffered.

"There were companies that said, 'We're not going to entertain clients on the Fourth of July weekend.' They wanted to be with their families," Graham said.

Now, the USGA wants to stage the Women's Open the last week in June. It can't go later in the summer because clubs are hesitant to give up their courses at a time when members play most of their golf.

One problem - the LPGA Championship is also played in June.

"It puts a real pinch on us in terms of spacing between the McDonald's LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women's Open," LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw said. "Under the current configuration, when they go that week we only have one week between them, and that's the U.S. Open. None of my events want to go against the men's Open."

Votaw would prefer to leave the LPGA Championship in June when the weather is warmer and drier. It can't go to July because DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del., has a large and active membership.

"We have to work out a number of different things," Votaw said. "And we have three years to figure it out."

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STUCK IN THE MIDDLE: Mark Calcavecchia provided another glimpse into the relationship between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

"They put up with each other, but they aren't the best of friends," Calcavecchia says in the August issue of Golf Digest.

Calcavecchia would know, since he's close to both of them. He recalled one time that put him in an awkward position.

"Phil and I were supposed to be first off for a practice round at Augusta, and Phil was getting on Tiger for cutting in front of us," Calcavecchia said. "Tiger looked at Phil like he thought he was kidding, but he wasn't. Phil was like, 'You better get ... out of the way, or I'm hitting.' And I was like, Wow!

"Tiger was looking at me like, 'Is he serious?' It was a bit of smack. Then Phil comes back with that grin he has, like he partially messing with him. So, they've got a little of that going on."

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A NEW SONG: Don't be surprised if the 16-year-old twins Aree and Naree Song Wongluekiet turn professional late next year - and with a different last name.

Aree, who qualified for the U.S. Women's Open and tied Angela Jerman as low amateur, told USGA officials on Saturday that she wanted her home country to be South Korea instead of Thailand. They have dual citizenship because their mother is Thai and their father Korean.

"I just feel it's nice to play for your father's country," Aree said.

She also said the twins might take their father's last name - Song - which would be easier to market and be more appealing to the substantial Korean golf media.

"It's a lot easier than saying Wongluekiet," Aree said. "Some people just say, 'Aree,' and then, 'I don't know what her last name is.' This will make things easier."

The twins, who live in Bradenton, Fla., qualified for the developmental Futures Tour and play as amateurs. They haven't said when they plan to turn pro, although they drove to LPGA headquarters two months ago for a lengthy meeting with LPGA Tour commissioner Ty Votaw.

Under LPGA policy, they could not even apply for Q-school until they turn 18, and that won't be until May 1, 2004.

They could petition to play Q-school next year and, if they make it, become members when they turn 18. Votaw said he would consider their maturity and performance in deciding whether to let them into Q-school early.

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TIGER NO-SHOW: The 10th annual Espy Awards will be held Wednesday night in Los Angeles. Tiger Woods already has won 11 awards, more than any other athlete, and has been nominated in three categories.

Just don't look for him to walk across the stage at the Kodak Theater.

Woods will be on his way to Ireland to begin preparations for the British Open, the third leg in his quest for a calendar Grand Slam.

Woods and Disney - the parent company of ESPN - signed a five-year deal last year. ESPN inquired a few months ago about Woods' availability for the Espy Awards show, but was told the chances of him going were less than zero percent.

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DIVOTS: The PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando got a boost when Callaway said it would have a booth in January. Titleist and Ping previously announced they would not attend. ... Overnight ratings for the U.S. Women's Open were 2.2 with a 5 share, up 57 percent from 1.4 with a 3 share last year. It also was the highest Sunday rating since a 3.1 with an 8 share in 1998, when 20-year-old amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn forced 20-year-old Se Ri Pak into a playoff at Blackwolf Run. ... Jerry Kelly's victory at the Western Open gave the PGA Tour its fourth consecutive multiple winner this season.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: The top four finishers at the U.S. Women's Open all had morning tee times in the first round.

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FINAL WORD: "At any major, no one has made a speech and said, 'I putted badly.' Nobody ever will." - Colin Montgomerie.