For at least one more year, the LPGA’s first major of the year, the ANA Inspiration, will share the schedule and the spotlight with the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
On Friday of this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, LPGA commissioner Mike Whan shared the news for the 2020 schedule.
Augusta National put the squeeze on the tournament when it created the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, played for the first time in April 2019 the same weekend as the ANA Inspiration. The ANWA had killer TV ratings and drew many media to Augusta National for the final round to cover the inaugural event. That lure is likely to remain strong in 2020, causing difficulty for the ANA Inspiration, whose TV ratings declined in 2019 opposite the Augusta battle between amateurs Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi.
Whan detailed the difficulty in moving the date of the long-running LPGA major, typically the first in professional golf, from what has become its traditional date the week prior to the Masters.
- Go two weeks earlier, and host Mission Hills Country Club can’t host.
- Go a week sooner, and the LPGA is up against the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, which would cut into the TV coverage the event gets from Golf Channel. The LPGA would have to switch dates with the Kia Classic.
- Go a week later, and it’s up against the Masters, which is a non-starter.
- Go two weeks later, and it’s up against the Coachella music festival, which would make fans compete with concert goers for inflated hotel rates and limited accommodations.
Whan, ever the optimist, believes it’s not a bad thing in the grander scheme to have women’s golf dominate the weekend prior to the Masters.
“I still believe, and maybe I’m the one with the rose-colored glasses, but I still believe if we get it right long term, with the Augusta-ANA combination, we are going to create a weekend that’s really going to be a celebration, not that it wasn’t this year,” Whan said. “I think we can continue to live there.”
Changing the dates of the ANA Inspiration would represent further shuffling of the LPGA’s five majors. The Evian Championship, weather-plagued as a major in September, has moved to late July to take advantage of better weather in France. The Women’s PGA Championship moved to June to accommodate that. The US Women’s Open has effectively moved to Memorial Day weekend.