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Published: Tuesday, 7/15/2008

Storm clouds on horizon for Farr

Idle thoughts from a golf-addled mind, three dots at a time:

The Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic has one more year on its contract with the LPGA Tour and one more year on its lease deal with Highland Meadows Golf Club. Sounds like we can count on a silver anniversary tournament in 2009

Will there be a 26th edition of the Farr in 2010? That's the question

Paula Creamer and the Owens Corning Pink Panther had plenty to be excited about after Creamer s win Sunday. However, in a sign of potential problems for the tournament, Creamer was the only top-10 player on the tour s money list who played. Paula Creamer and the Owens Corning Pink Panther had plenty to be excited about after Creamer s win Sunday. However, in a sign of potential problems for the tournament, Creamer was the only top-10 player on the tour s money list who played.
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The price of doing business with the LPGA is going up. Tournament rights fees have skyrocketed, and there is scuttlebutt that new contract talks with any tournament and sponsor might include a minimum purse structure that may be out of the reach of this particular $1.3 million event

The tour's business model can be defined as take-take-take without much give-give-give back to the folks who work so hard to put on these local events

Owens Corning could not have been happier with this year's champion, Paula Creamer, aka the Pink Panther. But the sponsor was none too happy that Creamer was the only top-10 player on the LPGA money list to compete. That lack of participation by top players is almost unheard of

Farr insiders tell me it's tougher and tougher to sell lucrative pro-am sponsorships and playing berths, the lifeblood of any tournament above and beyond contributions from the presenting and title sponsors

It's not like the good, old days when Nancy Lopez, Betsy King, JoAnne Carner, Patty Sheehan, Pat Bradley, Amy Alcott, Kathy Whitworth, Beth Daniel, Juli Inkster, Laura Baugh, Hollis Stacy, Dottie Pepper, Jan Stephenson, Meg Mallon - the best players and biggest names, young and old - understood the importance of supporting as many tournaments as they possibly could, each and every year

Now, tournaments like the Farr draw fields filled with strange names from distant lands, many of whom speak little or no English. I know this isn't a politically correct observation, but we all know it's out there, so what the heck. You'll never get a tournament director or sponsor to talk about it on the record, but it surely hinders pro-am sales

You and your buddy pay the same stout amount to play in a pro-am. He draws Natalie Gulbis, and you draw a rookie from the Far East. It's the luck of the draw, sure, but somebody might elect not to be in the draw next year. Politically correct? Nope. True? You bet

I spoke with someone who played in a pro-am event with Michelle Wie, and he said she could not have been more gracious, more friendly, more accommodating, brighter, or in better humor. He has played in dozens of these things and said he'd rarely had a more enjoyable round. That's good news. A little humility apparently can go a long ways

Wie can play in two more LPGA events this year on sponsor exemptions, and she'll need a couple high finishes and about $100,000 in earnings to finish among the top 80 on the LPGA money list and automatically qualify for a tour playing card next year. I hope she earns her way for three reasons - she's had enough handed to her; the LPGA needs her, and she needs to forget some of those naive hopes and dreams of a young teen and play on a tour where she can compete and, maybe, win

To do so, Wie is going to have to come up with better game plans than she had at Highland Meadows, where she did not hit the driver once during the first two rounds and cited "playing conditions." One of the longest hitters in the women's game eschews hitting driver on a wet course made longer than its yardage, costing 35-40 yards on most every hole, hitting longer irons in, costing herself birdie opportunities and being satisfied - "My scores aren't showing how really well I'm playing." - with a 1-over-par performance on a course that was surrendering birdies by the bushel? You got me

Michelle said she "has thought about" going to the LPGA's qualifying tournament if she doesn't make the top 80. But she said any decision "would be useless now." What's to think about? Team Wie's ego will never allow her to try to play her way onto the LPGA Tour by competing on the Futures Tour. You may recall that's how Lorena Ochoa first got her card

Is Wie's father, B.J., still calling all the shots? Heaven help her. He shadowed her every on-course move at Highland Meadows, as he has in virtually every tournament in which she has ever played. She's 18 now. When she left Hawaii to become a freshman at Stanford University last fall, her parents also moved to Palo Alto. They get some credit as negotiators, perhaps, for that $30 mil in the bank from endorsements, but that doesn't buy them the right to suffocate her, does it?

The old man's no Earl Woods

Enough with the free passes and the sense of entitlement Team Wie feels should come with celebrity. Michelle isn't one these days. Without game, there's no fame. And, if it still comes to it a year from now, the opinion here is there should be no Farr sponsor exemption tossed her way in '09

As for 2010, we'll keep our fingers crossed. Not for Wie. For the Farr



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