The LPGA Tour begins its new season with four additional tournaments and a lot more reason for optimism.
Just as it looked as though the tour would suffer irreparable harm from the economic downturn, Commissioner Mike Whan delivered a schedule of 27 tournaments worth $47 million in prize money, signaling a strong recovery.
Three of the new tournaments announced Tuesday are in the United States, including the return of two popular events in Ohio and Virginia.
The biggest surprise was the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, which was not played a year ago. The LPGA Tour is also going back to Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., a favorite course among players that was last played in 2009.
The tour previously announced new tournaments in Hawaii and Canada, along with co-sanctioning the Women’s Australian Open, which will kick off the new season Feb. 9-12 at fabled Royal Melbourne Golf Club.
Another improvement to the schedule is the elimination of long periods of inactivity.
Last year, the LPGA Tour was coming off its first major -- the Kraft Nabisco Championship, won by Stacy Lewis -- when it took three weeks off before its next tournament. Even with a global schedule in which tournaments will be played in a dozen countries, the LPGA Tour will not go more than two weeks without playing in 2012.
It might also get more attention for the U.S. Women’s Open, which was held a week before the men’s British Open the last three years. This year, the Women’s Open will be played July 5-8, two weeks before the British Open.
The Women’s British Open, meanwhile, was moved back a month in part because of the London Olympics. It will be held at Royal Liverpool on Sept. 13-16.
The LPGA Tour goes to Australia, Thailand and Singapore in consecutive weeks to start the year.
The first U.S. tournament will be the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup outside Phoenix in March -- and this time the players will actually get paid. A year ago, the tournament had a mock purse in which the earnings were applied toward the LPGA Tour money list, but the money actually went toward a charity program to honor the tour’s founders.
Whan said the LPGA Tour was able to renew eight of the nine tournament contracts that ended in 2011, and 10 of its 11 marketing agreements. The one tournament it lost was the State Farm Classic in Illinois.
Along with the new tournaments, Whan said the North American events will get live television coverage on the Golf Channel on weekends, instead of being shown on tape delay.
Here is the complete 2012 LPGA Tour schedule:
Feb. 9-12: ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia
Feb. 16-19: Honda LPGA Thailand in Bangkok, Thailand
Feb. 23-26: HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore
Mar. 15-18: RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup in Tempe, Ariz.
Mar. 22-25: Kia Classic in Carlsbad, Calif.
Mar. 29-Apr. 1: Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Apr. 18-21: LPGA LOTTE Championship in Oahu, Hawaii
Apr. 26-29: Mobile Bay LPGA Classic in Mobile, Ala.
May 5-6: HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (unofficial event)
May 17-20: Sybase Match Play Championship in Gladstone, N.J.
Jun. 1-3: ShopRite LPGA Classic in Galloway, N.J.
Jun. 7-10: Wegmans LPGA Championship in Pittsford, N.Y.
Jun. 21-24: Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
June 29-Jul. 1: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in Rogers, Ark.
Jul. 5-8: U.S. Women’s Open in Kohler, Wis.
Jul. 26-29: Evian Masters in Evian-les-Bains, France
Aug. 9-12: Jamie Farr Toledo Classic in Sylvania, Ohio
Aug. 17-19: Safeway Classic in North Plains, Ore
Aug. 23-26: CN Canadian Women’s Open in Coquitlam, B.C., Canada
Sept. 6-9: Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Va.
Sept. 13-16: Ricoh Women’s British Open in Liverpool, England
Sept. 20-23: Navistar LPGA Classic in Prattville, Ala.
Oct. 11-14: Sime Darby LPGA in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Oct. 19-21: LPGA HanaBank Championship in Incheon, Korea
Oct. 25-28: Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship in Taoyuan, Taiwan
Nov. 2-4: Mizuno Classic Kintetsu in Mie, Japan
Nov. 8-11: Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Guadalajara, Mexico
Nov. 15-18: CME Group Titleholders in Naples, Fla.