The LPGA Tour officially makes its return at the LPGA Drive On Championship in Ohio from July 31-Aug. 2 after a five-month break.
The Drive On Championship – a new event for 2020 played at the venerable Inverness Club (set to play host to the Solheim Cup in 2021) – will feature the top nine Americans in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings lead by No.2 Nelly Korda.
Number five Danielle Kang, No. 9 Lexi Thompson, No. 16 Jessica Korda, No. 19 Lizette Salas, No. 28 Brittany Altomare, No. 29 Marina Alex, No. 40 Angel Yin and No. 41 Megan Khang are all scheduled to play.
It’s the first tournament on the LPGA Tour’s schedule since the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. Inbee Park won that event on Feb. 16 – more than five months ago.
Many of the LPGA Tour’s international stars have decided against playing the first event back on the schedule as COVID-19 continues to impact travel. Since the U.S. has become a hotbed for the virus, many of the LPGA Tour’s top names have decided to stay at home.
That includes Thailand’s Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn, England’s Georgia Hall and Charley Hull, and four South Koreans in the top-10 in the world: No. 1 Jin Young Ko, No. 3 Sung Hyun Park, No. 6 Sei Young Kim, and No. 10 Jeongeun Lee6.
Brooke Henderson is not on the tournaments entry list for either of the first two events of the LPGA Tour’s schedule. She has committed to the AIG Women’s British Open Aug. 20-23 at the Royal Troon in Scotland – the first major championship back on the LPGA Tour’s schedule for 2020.
EXCITEMENT IS BUILDING
Still, the excitement is there for those who will be teeing it up again.
Canadian Alena Sharp has committed to playing the first five events on the LPGA Tour’s schedule and took to Twitter to share her enthusiasm.
Time to get the show on the road. After a long lay off I’m very excited to play 5 in a row starting with #DriveOn next week. Team: @RBC @jukasaradio @AntiguaWear @Titleist @sarahsherpa @BSaundersGolf @naveedshanspt pic.twitter.com/DshhdPDQ2P
— Alena Sharp (@AlenaSharp) July 20, 2020
The LPGA Tour has been on its longest in-season break ever (the PGA Tour returned in early June) and the members have had only four tournaments completed in 2020.
“I’m really excited to get back and you know, the closer we get, the more certainty we have with the overall protocols,” said 2018 ANA Inspiration winner Pernilla Lindberg in mid-July. “I feel more and more excited to get back to playing golf. I can picture what it’s going to look like and the excitement is hard to contain.”
The LPGA Tour started 2020 with a ton of momentum. Its commissioner, Mike Whan, just signed an extension to be at the helm of the Tour after celebrating his 10-year anniversary. There were supposed to be 500 global hours of broadcast coverage to more than 500 million households around the world. There was supposed to be a record prize fund of more than $75-million. Thirty-three events, 11 countries, the Olympics, the UL International Crown, and of course, the five major championships.
Instead, the LPGA Tour has seen double-digit tournaments cancelled or postponed, with more to likely follow as the Tour heads to Asia in the fall (Whan said he “fully believes” the Tour will lose up to three events more this season).
Despite many more questions than answers right now, Whan remains positive.
“It should be a busy first five weeks, and an exciting time for players to come back on board. Start, don’t start, play a major, don’t play a major, but there are a lot of options here in just these first five weeks of our restart,” he said. “And we’re excited to play.”
The LPGA Tour’s return to golf is set to look like this –
LPGA Drive On Championship (July 31 – new event)
Marathon Classic presented by Dana (Aug. 6)
Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open (Aug. 13)
AIG Women’s British Open (Aug. 20)
Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G (Aug. 28)