- Alistair Tait
There really only is one tournament for golf fans to watch over the next four days. And it isn’t the stuff being played on the Earth Course in Dubai. It’s the action from the Champions Golf Club in Houston.
The women don’t always take top billing in a crowded season, but give me the U.S. Women’s Open over the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai any day of the week. A major gets my attention over even the Euro Tour’s season finale.
It’s a credit to the USGA and the European Tour that both events are taking place this week. At least the world’s top women see that. Too bad some of Europe’s top men don’t.
Stay away stars from Dubai include Rory McIlroy, defending champion Jon Rahm, Paul Casey, Shane Lowry, Louis Oosthuizen, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia. Dubai is a victim of the stars earning so much money that an $8 million tournament with a first-place prize of $3 million can’t entice some of the world’s top stars to climb into their private jets and fly to the Middle East to support their home tour, the tour that gave most of them their start in professional golf. I hope they have valid excuses for not turning up, especially Rahm. Isn’t failing to defend a title an offence punishable by firing squad, even in a pandemic?
The money on offer in the U.S. Women’s Open is fantastic too. A $5.5 million-dollar purse with $1 million going to the winner is nothing to be sniffed at, but the top women won’t be thinking of that: they’ll be dreaming of becoming a major champion. That’s why the only stay away stars in Houston are those who can’t make it for injury or Covid 19 reasons.
Interesting quote from former Golfweek colleague Beth Ann Nichols, who writes:
“Only 4 percent of sports coverage includes women’s sports or female athletes. Yet, according to Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, 40 percent of all sports participants are female.
“It’s impossible to justify 4 percent.”
Spot on. I don’t know how much coverage women’s golf gets compared to the men’s game, but it’s certainly not 50-50, that’s for sure. We’ve still got a long way to go when it comes to equality in this great game. If we had equality then the USGA wouldn’t be promoting the hashtag #womenworthwatching for this week’s tournament. The R&A wouldn’t be putting so much time, effort and money into its Women in Golf Charter.
Current R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers and his staff deserve a lot of credit for the campaign to get more women and girls into golf. Too bad the campaign didn’t start 100 years ago. Maybe then we wouldn’t be talking about paltry 4 percent figures. Maybe Europe’s women would have decent run of tournaments on the Ladies European Tour to help them develop. Maybe attracting sponsors would be far easier.
The governing body also deserves plaudits for staging this year’s Women’s Open Championship at Royal Troon. It would have been so easy, and understandable, to simply throw in the towel and postpone the championship until 2021 as it did with the Open Championship. Instead, we got the highlight of the year so far. Sophia Popov’s debut major victory was a fantastic watch, one that reduced me to tears over the closing 9 holes.
Let’s hope the final major of the year produces similar drama. I’ll be glued to my screen over the next four days watching the world’s best women in action. Oh, and I know I’m supposed to be biased, but I might give the odd cheer or three for fellow Woburn Golf Club members Charley Hull and Meghan McLaren.
Please don’t tell the Association of Golf Writers. It may revoke my membership for breaking impartiality rules.
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