Last week the LPGA announced the new Lotte Championship, a full-field event to be played in Hawaii in April, one of five events new to the schedule for 2012. The Lotte is a great opportunity for players and a tribute to Mike Whan(below) and his ability to make things happen. But not all is as peachy as it seems. Three months before the event there's still no plan to get it on TV. The equipment that brings us golf and football from Hawaii in January and February is back on the mainland by April. Those trucks may have to float west after the Kraft Nabisco, which will cost a lot but be well worth it. Last year Golf Channel aired more hours of live coverage and showed features about many of the players, and the LPGA's ratings grew 30%. Will it last?
The NBC-Comcast merger and the new PGA Tour TV deal complicate matters. As part of the PGA deal, during some NBC broadcasts certain holes will be simulcast on Golf Channel. For example, at the Honda Classic the Bear Trap holes will play on Golf Channel while the full tournament airs on NBC. Given the simulcasts, PGA Tour re-airs and contracts with the European, Champions and Nationwide tours, the LPGA may not get as many live airings and attractive air times. Maybe the LPGA should consider a shift to the new NBC Sports Network, where the tour could be an anchor and reap the benefits of cross-promotion and consistent air times. If the LPGA doesn't pursue a switch, it may only air when the PGA Tour is on CBS. That would be sad.
Dottie Pepper, a 17-year LPGA vet, is an analyst for NBC and Golf Channel.