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Votaw Paints LPGA Tour as League of Its Own

Repeat after me, says Ty Votaw, the LPGA Tour commissioner: Stop comparing us to the PGA Tour.

There is simply no comparison, according to Votaw, who is fed up with any analysis of the LPGA that includes analogies to the PGA Tour.

“Stop focusing on comparisons with the PGA Tour,” Votaw said. “It’s an absolute apples and oranges comparison.”

Votaw says it shouldn’t be done, mainly because the LPGA ought to be compared to other professional women’s sports, such as the Women’s Tennis Assn. or the WNBA.

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“To say we are not successful because we are not as successful as the PGA Tour [is wrong],” Votaw said.

“That’s like saying the PGA Tour is not as successful as the NFL, and of course it isn’t.”

One of the reasons for the PGA Tour’s success in relation to the LPGA is that 40% of its tournament prize money comes from its television deals, Votaw says.

“You can’t compare the WNBA to the NBA,” he said. “It pales in comparison. We’re very much closer to the PGA Tour than the WNBA to the NBA. And the WTA, it doesn’t have higher purses [than the LPGA] and doesn’t have higher TV. And their No. 50 player is not at all on par with our No. 50 player.

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“Compare us to ourselves or to other women’s sports. We’re an amazing success. Yeah, you can say we’re falling behind the PGA Tour, but we’re moving forward every year. . . . It’s not like we’re backsliding.”

In 2000, in its 50th anniversary year, the LPGA plays a 39-event schedule with $36 million in prize money and a record average purse of $900,375.

The PGA Tour plays 49 official events with $157 million in prize money and an average purse of

$3 million.

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But who’s comparing?

TUNEUP TIME (MAYBE)

Know what the PGA Tour really loves? When the Players Championship is talked about as the so-called “fifth major.”

Of course, this is a pointless discussion because there are only four majors, just as there is only one Easter Bunny and there are only 12 days of Christmas.

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Anyway, the Blue Jackets of the PGA Tour hierarchy must have been wincing slightly when Tiger Woods referred to the Players Championship as “a tuneup” for the Masters.

Yes, there’s nothing like those $5-million tuneups plopped right in the PGA Tour’s backyard in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Tuneups are for cars and pianos, not big-deal tournaments like this one, right?

Maybe, but it’s still a tuneup, according to Woods.

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“It is technically, it’s a tuneup,” he said. “Because for me, I’m one tournament away and two weeks away [from the Masters]. It’s my last tournament before the Masters.

“More importantly, this is the best field on a very difficult and tough golf course. Very similar to what we are going to face two weeks from now.”

Now if Woods ever calls the Masters a tuneup for the U.S. Open, we can reopen this discussion.

UNHAPPY MOTORING

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Know what Woods’ agent really hates? It’s the weekly advertisement in GolfWorld by the Mercedes Championships, congratulating the latest PGA Tour winner for making it into next year’s Mercedes field.

Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent at IMG, has seen Woods’ face used three times in the Mercedes ads this year alone. And that makes Steinberg do a fast burn, mainly because Woods has an endorsement deal with General Motors’ Buick division. Steinberg has been upset enough to discuss the issue with PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem.

WOODS’ STOCK

From the “Showdown at Sherwood” to the “Battle of Bighorn,” Woods in prime time just moves to another location. This time it’s at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, where IMG’s two prized clients-- Woods and Sergio Garcia--will play each other Aug. 28 on ABC.

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The prize money is the same as last year, when Woods defeated David Duval. The winner gets $1.1 million, the loser $400,000 and each player donates $200,000 to charity.

MUFFIN DEAL STILL AVAILABLE

From the April issue of Esquire: "[John] Daly remains the only proven draw on the PGA Tour, or in any major sport for that matter, without a huge compensation package from a major corporate sponsor.”

Well, duh, whose fault is that? This must be a note for people with extremely short memories since it was Daly who walked away from a $3-million endorsement deal with Callaway because he didn’t want to go through a rehab program.

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DAILY DALY

Anybody notice that there were six scores in the 80s on Sunday at Bay Hill? And the highest was an 87 by, yes, Daly.

At least Daly didn’t start smacking the ball on the run or making an 18 on a par five, as he did in 1998. What Daly did do was hit seven fairways, six greens and putt 35 times.

“Embarrassing,” said Daly, who in seven events this year has missed three cuts and pulled out once.

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WHO WANTS TO BE . . . ?

For what it’s worth, Mark Calcavecchia became the 10th player in PGA Tour history to pass $10 million in career earnings when he tied for seventh at the Honda.

Also for what it’s worth, Calcavecchia has won nine times in a 20-year career.

OF COURSE

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What’s the best golf course in the country? It’s not an easy answer, so in a GolfWeek special edition, its list was divided into two categories--Classical and Modern.

Pine Valley in Pine Valley, N.J., gets the No. 1 ranking among the classical, with Cypress Point

No. 2, Augusta National No. 3, Pebble Beach No. 4 and Shinnecock Hills No. 5.

Los Angeles Country Club is No. 19 and Riviera is No. 33.

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Top-rated among the modern courses, Sand Hills Golf Club in Mullen, Neb., is No. 1--a Ben Crenshaw/Bill Coore design. Pete Dye’s Whistling Straits in Mosel, Wis., is No. 2. The only California courses in the top 100 are Robert Trent Jones’ Spyglass Hill at Pebble Beach at No. 10 and Tom Fazio’s Quarry at La Quinta at No. 95.

WEBB PAGE

From Karrie Webb, asked if she is relieved that no one can ask her when she is going to win a major: “I didn’t think I was going to get the questions of, ‘Are you glad that you’re not getting the questions of not winning a major?’ ” Webb won last year’s du Maurier Classic, her first and only major so far.

BIRDIES, BOGEYS, PARS

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Maccabi USA/Sports for Israel will hold the U.S. Maccabiah Golf Championship, a 54-hole stroke play event, July 16-18, at Doral in Miami. Details: (973) 257-9595.

John McKay, Chuck Knox, Marlin McKeever, Kermit Alexander, Mike Lansford, Tom Mack, Doug DeCinces, Rogie Vachon, Fred Williamson and Jack Faulkner are some of the celebrities who will play in a charity event today at Newport Beach Country Club. The event benefits the Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Details: (760) 632-7770.

Volunteers of America of Los Angeles and Orange counties will hold a celebrity golf tournament Friday at California Country Club in Whittier. The event benefits the VOA to provide hot meals to low-income senior citizens and care for their pets. Details: (760) 632-7770.

Entry forms are available for the 12th Nike Golf Long Beach Golf Festival, a seven-tournament series, beginning with the Senior amateur championship May 15-17 and ending with the $145,000 Long Beach Open, July 27-30. Details: (562) 494-2850.

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