ANA Inspiration to keep date at least for 2020

Golf

CHASKA, Minn. — The LPGA Tour will have a new tournament in Florida at the start of next year, and likely another one in the late spring. The Asian swing of limited-field events at the start of the year is adding a tournament with a full field and a cut.

And perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle: The ANA Inspiration is staying put. It again will be one week before the Masters and the same weekend as the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, which stole the spotlight from the LPGA Tour’s first major, not to mention some of the amateurs.

Still to be determined is whether it stays that way.

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said last week he was not ready to commit the ANA Inspiration to the weekend before the Masters after 2020.

“I’m very open in admitting it wasn’t as great a media year or television ratings year as we’ve had in the past there,” Whan said.

Moving the ANA Inspiration won’t be easy. To play it in the California desert a week after the Masters would compete with the fabled Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, when hotel rates would likely triple and volunteers would be harder to find.

To go a week earlier would pit the LPGA’s first major against the Dell Match Play, meaning a significant loss in TV time. The Match Play had 26 hours of TV time on Golf Channel, while the Kia Classic on the LPGA Tour (the same week) had eight hours of Golf Channel coverage.

“We’re better to stay where we are,” Whan said. “ANA has agreed with me, first and foremost let’s make sure we put on a good major for the players and figure out the rest around that.”

Whan doesn’t see it as a total loss. This year, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur turned into a showdown — and a terrific show — between Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi, who now are on the LPGA Tour.

“I still believe if we get it right — the Augusta-ANA combination — we’re going to create a weekend one of these years that’s really going to be a celebration,” he said.

According to Golf Channel, more than 80 hours of live tournament and news coverage was devoted to the ANA Inspiration and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur from April 1 through April 7, the most ever dedicated to women’s golf in a single week.

“We aren’t necessarily saying that’s the date for the next five years,” Whan said. “Just the date for 2020.”

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