2016 HSBC Women’s Champions

Golf: New tie-up for PGA, LPGA tours

With the new PGA-LPGA alliance, fans may now have a chance to watch stars like world No. 1s Lydia Ko and Jordan Spieth square off in a mixed-team tournament.
With the new PGA-LPGA alliance, fans may now have a chance to watch stars like world No. 1s Lydia Ko and Jordan Spieth square off in a mixed-team tournament.PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
With the new PGA-LPGA alliance, fans may now have a chance to watch stars like world No. 1s Lydia Ko and Jordan Spieth square off in a mixed-team tournament.
With the new PGA-LPGA alliance, fans may now have a chance to watch stars like world No. 1s Lydia Ko and Jordan Spieth square off in a mixed-team tournament.PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The partnership raises possibility for hosting joint events and tournaments, among others

The mouth-watering prospect of watching world No. 1s Jordan Spieth and Lydia Ko square off on the golf course could soon be a reality after their respective tours announced a long-term strategic alliance agreement on Friday.

The partnership between the US-based PGA Tour and LPGA Tour will cover schedule coordination, joint marketing programmes, domestic television representation, digital media and explore the potential development of joint events.

This opens up the possibility of creating a mixed-team golf tournament, similar to the now-defunct JCPenney Classic, which saw players from both tours paired in an alternate-shot format.

World No. 3 and top-ranked American Lexi Thompson was excited about the prospect.

She told The Sunday Times yesterday: "I always get suggestions on Twitter that I should have friendly matches with guys on the PGA Tour and the fans would love to see that.

"Having a mixed team, Rickie (Fowler) and me against Rory (McIlroy) and Lydia would definitely draw in a younger audience and grow the fan base for golf."

Tie-ups between men's and women's events have already gained some traction. Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina hosted the US Open and US Women's Open in consecutive weeks in 2014.

In May, the European Tour and Ladies European Tour will stage simultaneous events at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course in Morocco.

The men's Hassan Trophy will be played on the Red Course while the women's Lalla Meryem Cup will be held on the Blue Course.

New Zealand's Ko had competed at the 2014 US Open and noted the spillover effect of bigger crowds.

She said: "It was a really good experience for me to be able to watch men's golf as well, to see it live.

"Working with the PGA Tour will grow our tour, help us with more exposure and grab the attention of sponsors and fans."

In addition to the tie-up with the PGA Tour, the LPGA also revealed further cause for optimism.

This season, there are 34 tournaments with a total prize money of US$63.1 million (S$86.7 million), a sharp increase from the 23 events and US$40.5 million on offer in 2011.

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in Friday's statement: "We believe the PGA Tour has significant expertise in the areas that we will focus on together and working closely with them carries with it the very real potential of positively impacting our members, our tournaments and our ability to grow our sport."

The LPGA's television deal with Golf Channel expires in 2019 while the PGA Tour's agreement with television networks Golf Channel, NBC and CBS ends in 2021.

Joining forces would likely give both entities greater leverage for subsequent negotiations, noted Golf Digest's senior writer Ron Sirak in a column on Friday.

Australian veteran and seven-time Major winner Karrie Webb, an LPGA Tour member since 1996, was delighted to hear the news.

"In Australia, the three different golfing bodies are at odds and fighting one another, and you get nowhere when it's like that," she said. "This is a very positive thing that we are working together for the good of golf and hopefully that will grow women's golf's exposure."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 06, 2016, with the headline 'NEW TIE-UP FOR PGA, LPGA TOURS'. Print Edition | Subscribe