LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan on Friday responded to social media criticism regarding the status of the new great champion Sophia Popov.
Popov only had Symetra Tour status when she shocked the golf world by winning the AIG Women’s Open last Sunday at the Royal Troon. Had she been a full-time LPGA member, she would have earned a five-year automatic exemption while touring. Instead, as a non-member, it will be exempt for two years, until the end of the 2021 season.
In a statement, the LPGA said this is not the first time a non-member has won a major championship and received a two-year exemption from membership. Indeed, the same situation occurred last year at the Women’s Open, for Hinako Shibuno, but she refused to accept membership. In Gee Chun (2015 US Women’s Open) and Hyo Joo Kim (2014 Evian Championship) they also got two-year exemptions after winning a major as a non-member.
The tour rules and regulations have drawn the ire of some PGA Tour players, including Ian Poulter and Tommy Fleetwood:
This story is absolutely embarrassing for the @LPGA and frankly embarrassing for the game of golf. Someone wake up and understand it. To the best history of golf in a long time to the worst history in a few days. @SophiaCPopov https://t.co/0Vbb5iUwiV
– Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) August 28, 2020
As golfers, we all dream of being great champions @SophiaCPopov congratulations for such a special result! @LPGA rule is stupid to say the least. The way you play though, you don’t have to worry about it ????????????????
– Tommy Fleetwood (@ TommyFleetwood1) August 28, 2020
In a video statement released Friday by the LPGA, Commissioner Mike Whan said he will reevaluate the regulations and restrictions at the end of the season, as he does every year, but that he won’t change the rules in the midst of this pandemic-affected season.
“It’s the regulation we started the season with,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to end the season with.”
In addition to membership in the LPGA, Popov also received important places in the AIG Women’s Open until the age of 60; the KPMG PGA championship until 2024; and ANA Inspiration, Evian Championship and US Women’s Open from 2021 to 25.
So that means Popov won’t be in Palm Springs, California next month for the second LPGA major of the year, the ANA. Whan said Friday that the camp was set up in March, before the pandemic disrupted the sport. It’s a similar policy to Augusta National’s policy for this year’s Masters, now rescheduled for November.
“It’s okay if you don’t agree with me. It’s okay if you don’t like it, “he said.” But when we set that field, we set that field and don’t go back and don’t change that field later. “
Whan’s full statement can be found here:
– LPGA (@LPGA) August 28, 2020
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