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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Why Randall Mell Might Be Wrong

It's become very popular over the last week to criticize how the Evian Championship played out, with the first round being wiped out, the event shortened to only 54 holes and the apparent mandate to finish the major in Sunday's broadcast slot. Randall Mell even wrote an opinion post called Randall's Rant: The Evian earned a major* asterisk to focus on what he sees as the problem.

He points to Mike Whan's belief that "We have to start thinking like title sponsors," that the LPGA needs to focus more on its sponsors than on the inherent integrity of the game.

photo for Mell's editorial

Now don't misunderstand. Mell isn't criticizing Whan's importance to the LPGA or the women's game in general. What he questions is whether Whan's approach works for majors as well as it works for women's golf in general.

And make no mistake, it has worked spectacularly.

As I see it, his question ignores a very important fact: The reason that the other four women's majors have become so respected is because Whan has adopted this approach. Let me explain, and I'll try to keep this short because I think the issue has been blown out of proportion but does deserve to be addressed.

Mell points out that, among Whan's other great achievements as LPGA commish, one of the things he has done successfully is convince (if you'll pardon the pun) major players in the men's game that the women deserve to be taken just as seriously. And the very reason Whan has achieved this "rise in status" for the women's game has been his attention to the sponsors. Let's look at some things that have happened since Whan became commish in late 2009.
  • More Open venues have become hosts of the RICOH Women's British Open, beginning with Carnoustie (2011) and Royal Liverpool (2012).
  • The PGA of America and the LPGA have begun working together, and that has resulted in the LPGA Championship becoming the KPMG Women's PGA Championship and expanding its play to the same championship venues that the men routinely play.
  • The PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour have begun working together, and this has also resulted in better quality events overall.
All of these advancements took time, but they happened in a much shorter timeframe than most expected. This is because Mike Whan has consistently taken gambles that appeared foolish, even contrary to the health of the women's game. Time after time, Whan's instincts have proven to be not only correct but successful to an inexplicable degree.

So when Mell ends his article with a medley of faults inherent in the Evian -- faults which he believes have become damaging to the LPGA -- and with the following statement:
Riboud’s working on it [the shortcomings], and Whan’s working on it, but we saw decisions last week that clash with major championship tradition.
I find myself laughing. As Mell himself notes, Whan declared the Evian a major just five years ago. I ask, what was the situation like at that time and how has it changed?

Evian was, at that time, considered a major by the LET although it wasn't accorded such status by the LPGA, and the sponsors had been the sponsors for a long time with little change made. Yet, in five short years, the Evian Championship course has undergone major renovations -- which are still continuing, as Mell notes in that previous quote -- the purse has gone up dramatically and the women themselves are taking it more seriously.

Is it perfect after five years? Of course not, and the tweets from the women themselves this past week indicate that they aren't satisfied yet. But this event has come much, much, MUCH further along than it would have without the "Whan approach." And we know that Mike Whan himself, as well as the sponsors -- who were satisfied with the event for so long -- we know that none of them are satisfied either.

In a word, we wouldn't even be having a discussion about how far this event has to go if it weren't for Mike Whan risking this sort of criticism. If not for Whan's somewhat radical approach, the LPGA would likely be in worse shape than the LET is right now... and the LET is willing to listen to Whan's ideas because Whan's involvement causes the Men's ET to get involved.

Randall Mell is wrong. The Evian doesn't get an asterisk for failing. Before long it will likely be seen as a major stepping stone in the growth of women's golf, because we know Mike Whan & his co-conspirators will use this as a goad to drive their game to higher levels of excellence.If this Evian gets an asterisk, it will be for inspiring new advancements in women's golf. And why am I so sure?

Because that's what Mike Whan has done time after time since he became LPGA commish. Given his success rate for meeting challenges so far, I see no reason to believe he won't meet this one as well.


  1. LGU selected Woburn and Kingsbarns before R&A merger. Interested to see what R&A and Augusta can chip in. No live TV partner for CME final round

  2. Next July, Arnold Palmer Cup will expand and be held at Evian Resort due to major status