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1 While the PGA Tour held the best of its nonmajors, the LPGA did the same, teeing it up at the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., for the Michelob Ultra Open, which Cristie Kerr (right) won by two shots with a 16-under 268. But a big part of the Michelob's appeal—its $2.2 million purse, one of the largest on the LPGA tour—may also be the event's undoing, as Anheuser-Busch, which was bought by the Belgian company InBev last July, has not yet committed to sponsor the tournament beyond this year.
2 Trimming Down
As part of her long-term plan, commissioner Carolyn Bivens arranged for many of the tour's sponsorship contracts to expire in 2009, the same year the tour's TV deals ended. The idea was that once the tour had a better TV contract, it could negotiate more lucrative sponsorships. But even with new TV arrangements—a 10-year domestic contract with Golf Channel beginning in 2010, and a five-year pact with J Golf for Korean rights—the bad economy is making it tough merely to hold on to tournaments.
LOST EVENTS (FROM 2008)
• Fields Open
UNCERTAIN SPONSORS (FOR 2010)
• SBS Open
3 Bulking Up
Even as the LPGA struggles to secure some sponsorships, it has added or brought back a few events. And a little good fortune could be swinging the tour's way. As the economy begins to show signs of life (the fabled "green shoots"), the Michelob kicked off a string of four tournaments in five weeks that will be played in the continental U.S. and appear on national TV. They'll build up to the season's second major, the McDonald's LPGA Championship (June 11--14), and that run could allow the tour to generate the sort of momentum and visibility its international schedule has denied it so far in '09. Five of its first seven events (the exceptions: the J Golf Phoenix Open and the Kraft Nabisco) have been played outside the U.S. mainland and only two of those have been televised. Some great finishes and favorable winners could attract sponsors, and the tour is doing its part to seize the moment. Last week it hosted a summit with players to brainstorm ways to promote women's golf off the course. In the wake of that conclave, expect more fan outreach in the way of blogs, Twitter accounts, reality-TV experiments and autograph signings. Of course the consensus opinion on what would help the most can be boiled down to one sentence: Go, Michelle, go!