Canada unlikely to regain status as LPGA major

STEVE GREEN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:53 AM ET

The way LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens figures it, the chances of the Canadian Women's Open regaining its status as one of the four LPGA majors is about one in 32.

And that's if one of the current majors -- the Kraft Nabisco, McDonald's, U.S. Open and British Open -- gives up the honour.

The Canadian tournament, sponsored by CN and being held Aug. 10-13 at the London Hunt and Country Club, was a major under the du Maurier banner until the tobacco manufacturer was forced to give up its sponsorship under federal tobacco laws after the 2000 event. The British Open took its place as a major in 2001 and is the week before the Canadian Open this year.

"We've got 36 tournaments and every year, 32 want to know if they can be a major," Bivens said yesterday at a news conference at the Royal Canadian Golf Association's Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Bivens, who's been in her post for a little less than a year, said a number of criteria would have to be met, such as whether there'd be a pro-am, how many days, the quality of the course and the possibility of national network TV exposure.

"But it is important to have an LPGA tournament in Canada, for a number of reasons," she added. "And this year, we're having it on one of the best courses in the world with an organization in the RCGA that knows how to run a first-class event."

Already coming to London next month are the likes of Se Ri Pak, Juli Inkster, U.S. Women's Open runner-up Pat Hurst and some of the younger guard, such as Natalie Gulbis and Morgan Pressel.

A lot of the European-based players won't be here as the tournament conflicts with U.S. Open champion Annika Sorenstam's event in Sweden. Ross acknowledged this year's Canadian Open doesn't have the best date, but said Bivens is working hard to find a better one.

It wasn't long until the topic of Michelle Wie came up. She's probably the most-watched player in women's golf, but she's teeing it up with the men again at this week's John Deere Classic in Sylvis, Ill., trying once again to be the first women to make a PGA cut since Babe Zaharias 61 years ago.

Wie is only 16 and LPGA rules state she can't join the tour until she's 18. There's a chance she never will and Bivens was diplomatic in discussing the teen star.

"We've got a wealth of riches on the tour and no one player is swinging the television ratings or website dramatically," she said. "Everyone wants to talk about a 'Michelle effect' like a 'Tiger effect' but the fact is we do have a number of personalities a lot of people are watching. You'll see large galleries on four or five holes, depending on who's paired.

"Michelle's choosing to do things a different way and she has that opportunity because of a number of women who came before her, like Annika, who opened doors.

"Personally, sure I'd like to have her as a (LPGA) member," added Bivens, who said she'll make a recommendation to the membership to change the LPGA constitution to lower the eligibility age but also warned against "burning out" young stars.

"I want to have future commissioners talking about her playing on the tour when she's nearing 50."

With Pak and Karrie Webb regaining winning form by taking the season's first two majors, it's not all about the new faces on tour, but Bivens said the youngsters are a crucial element of the tour.

"What the young guns bring to the tour is they spark the sense of competition in the older players. Every time they hit a show, it's, 'Screw risk-reward.' They're going for the hole every time because they think they can make the shot."

As well, it was announced the Children's Hospital of Western Ontario will be the tournament's charity with the CN Miracle Match matching each donation to the hospital of $10 or more.


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