It is fitting and proper that the last two official professional golf events of the 2020 pandemic year belong to the women golfers at the U.S. Women’s Open this week and the CME Group Tour Championship next week. That’s because no sport has had more trouble with COVID-19 cancellations and postponements this year than the women of the LPGA.
Remember, it was last February when tournaments on the LPGA’s Asian swing started dropping off the schedule because of the coronavirus, at least a month before major tennis tournaments and other sports leagues like the NBA suspended play.
Before the women’s tour returned to the golf course, five months had been canceled or postponed. The LPGA did wonderful work in rescheduling events and adding some events to fill holes in the schedule and give its membership as many chances to make a check as possible.
But as the season draws to a close, with the rescheduled U.S. Women’s Open being played in Houston, you know the lights are still burning late into the night at LPGA headquarters. That’s because the LPGA already knows COVID-19 will possibly hammer its 2021 schedule as well.
The last two tournaments played as part of the regular schedule in February, both in Australia, have already been canceled for 2021. The natural fear is that a three-event swing through Asia, in Thailand, Singapore and China, also will be canceled by the pandemic and travel restrictions.
That is certainly the reason the LPGA, even at this late date, hasn’t officially announced a 2021 schedule. We know the Diamond Resort will be played in Florida from Jan. 21-24. Other than that, the first quarter of the LPGA season is a guessing game.
Normal by spring . . . maybe?
We know the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage is scheduled for April 1-4, but there has been no official announcement from the tour about that or any other event. On its website, the tour points out, “The LPGA normally releases their upcoming season’s schedule after the Tour Championship which this year is in mid-December. So, look out for the 2021 LPGA Tour Schedule on LPGA.com in late December.”
That ignores the fact that the LPGA had previously discussed releasing a schedule in November, and that the COVID-19 surge in the last month might spill over to the early part of the LPGA schedule.
The LPGA has done fabulous work in shoring up its 2020 schedule for players and for television, even adding a series of Drive On tournaments to keep golfers on the course and playing. If there is a five- or six-week gap from the traditional Asian Swing early in the year, you have to assume the LPGA already has at least a few contingency plans. It could be a matter of getting the tour from the Florida swing to the events in Arizona and California, adding one or two or three events to provide paychecks for players.
Maybe by the time the ANA Inspiration is played in April enough people will have taken the vaccine and the surge in COVID-19 will be under control to get fans on the course. Maybe by then sports will start to look like sports from one year ago.
Until then – at least – nothing is certain in sports, and the LPGA’s early 2021 schedule is no different.
Larry Bohannan is The Desert Sun golf writer. He can be reached at (760) 778-4633 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @Larry_Bohannan.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/12/12/covid-impact-lpga-2021-schedule/