LPGA tour kicks off with new event next year

NAPLES - Next year's LPGA season will feature a revamped Major tournament, a new event and a US$4 million (S$5.2 million) boost in total prize money, tour commissioner Mike Whan announced on Tuesday.

Ahead of the start of the season-ending LPGA Titleholders Tournament today, Whan revealed the 33-event schedule for next year, which includes a new opener in Florida, and a new name and sponsor for the first Major of the year.

"I'm excited that our team has achieved our target number of events to fill our schedule over the past few years," he said in a statement.

"We are focused on elevating and enhancing the playing opportunities for our players, viewing experiences for our fans and corporate involvement for our partners."

The season tees off with the Coates Championship in Ocala, Florida, from Jan 28 to 31 before moving on to the Bahamas and then Australia, and will end with the Nov 19 to 22 CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida.

The first women's Major of the season, the former Dinah Shore Tournament which has been known as the Kraft Nabisco Championship since 2002, will now be called the All Nippon Airways Inspiration, with a 25 per cent purse boost to US$2.5 million.

The event will remain at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, and will be staged from April 2 to 5, the week before the first men's Major of the year, the Masters at Augusta National.

The KPMG Women's PGA Championship in Westchester, New York, takes place from June 11 to 14, with the US Women's Open to be played at Lancaster Country Club in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, from July 9 to 12.

Turnberry in Scotland will host the Women's British Open from July 30 to Aug 2 before the fifth and final Major of the year, the Evian Championship, is staged in Evian-les-Bains in France from Sept 10 to 13.

Last May, the LPGA announced that the LPGA Championship would be renamed the Women's LPGA Championship. The new sponsor KPMG and the June event will get a purse boost to US$3.5 million.

Next year's tour has 33 events, one more than this year's, and will be worth US$61.6 million compared to US$57.55 million this season.

The Coates Championship ends on a Saturday, the eve of the National Football League's Super Bowl.