Mike Whan, the LPGA Tour commissioner, has “zero concern” about the Solheim Cup being played in the same month as the Ryder Cup next year due to the latter being moved back 12 months because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He has conceded, though, that the Solheim Cup will almost certainly be held in even years thereafter as it would “get the short end of the stick” if the two transatlantic team events continued to be played in the same year.
Next year’s Solheim Cup, which will see Catriona Matthew captain Europe for the second match in a row after last September’s success at Gleneagles, is set to be held on 4-6 September at Inverness Golf Club in Toledo, Ohio.
The Ryder Cup will now take place on 24-26 September at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin after this year’s scheduled match was cancelled when it became apparent that it couldn’t be played in front of fans due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions.
“I don’t think I want to have the Solheim Cup staying in the odd years long term, but I have zero concern about that happening in 2021,” Whan, pictured, told The Scotsman. “If I am being honest with you, I don’t think a steady diet of us being in the same year and same month as the Ryder Cup is in my best interests, but I am certainly not concerned about 2021.
“A lot of companies, now more than ever, are considering, and in some cases already are, sponsoring both the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup and they like the fact they are in alternate years. If we were in the same month and same year all the time, I think we would get the short end of the stick and I think we all know that.”
The Solheim Cup has been moved to avoid a clash with the Ryder Cup before, in 2003, following the 9/11 attacks in the US. The stature of the Solheim Cup has grown considerably since then, though, and Whan says it would be the wrong thing to move next year’s event.
“Toledo and Inverness is so far ahead of any other sales or ticket number for a Solheim Cup and I think it will be the biggest Solheim Cup we have ever seen,” he added. “So, for me to move it out 2021, I think all I would do would be to put all that at risk, sponsors, tickets, everything that is already a part of that.”
Under Whan’s leadership, the LPGA Tour took its time coming out of the Covid-19 lockdown, having restarted with back-to-back events in Ohio over the past fortnight and now stepping things up with a Scottish Swing made up of this week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club and next week’s AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon.
Whan, pictured, is using his experience with the US ladies’ circuit which seemed to take a more cautious approach than the men’s PGA Tour.
“In the first 30-40 days of this back in March/April, I was talking to a lot of players as it was a strange time,” he said. “I was always looking at my notes afterwards and ‘safe, slow, get it right’ were all things that were coming through.
“When you have these 25-year-old athletes telling their 55-year-old commissioner that, I knew it was important that we didn’t rush things and had to get it right. I wish I could lie to you and say I gave them the perspective, but I feel I got my perspective from them.”
Due to personal concerns, Korea’s Mi Jung Hur decided not to defend her ASI Ladies Scottish Open title in East Lothian this week, while compatriots Jin Young Ko, the world No 1, and third-ranked Sung Hyun Park are both sitting out the AIG Women’s Open, the first women’s major since lockdown, in Ayrshire.
“I talked to a couple of high-level Korean players back in May and they turned it round on me, asking: ‘what would you do Mike if you were me’. I said that if they were comfortable where they were, felt the virus was under control there and they had the chance to play some golf on the Korean LPGA, I wouldn’t be sure that I would want to come back out at the moment.”
Before the pandemic hit, players on the Ladies European Tour were gearing up for an exciting 2020 schedule, with 24 events, including seven new ones, and record prize-money of €18 million on the back of the circuit’s new partnership with the LPGA.
“It’s painful for someone who worked on this thing and felt proud of what we had built to watch it be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” admitted Whan.
“But I have zero doubts that our 2021 schedule, both on the LPGA and LET, will be better than the 2020 schedule we announced before the coronavirus and to me that will be a test of how we handled this. Sometimes in sport it’s hard to think long term, but I think we are on to something in our partnership with the LET and I don’t want to give that up just because a virus curtailed us for one year.”
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