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SportsGolf

LPGA gets little exposure because of low ratings

The 21st century LPGA is a modest television attraction, to put it kindly.

The good news for the women's tour is that it is in the first year of a 10-year deal with the Golf Channel, giving it a consistent home and a place for 18 of its events this season.

But the sport has little visibility on the broadcast networks and ESPN.

Of the four women's majors this year, CBS, NBC and ESPN each has final-round coverage of one - the other is on the Golf Channel - but that is pretty much it for live LPGA coverage outside the Golf Channel.

Even the Golf Channel does not show every round of all its events live, in part to maximize ratings by avoiding direct competition with tournaments on the men's tour.

None of this is a surprise given the ratings the sports commands.

The high-water mark this season for the Golf Channel was 0.5 percent of the homes that get the channel - for the third round of the Sybase Match Play Championship last month.

Golf Channel president Page Thompson said he is "extremely excited about the long-term prospects for the LPGA'' because of its deep pool of players who play almost every event, unlike the top men.

He also lauded the LPGA for being "extremely open to experimenting with new ways of presenting golf on television,'' including allowing players to be interviewed at the turn.

Thompson acknowledged that more prominent, successful American players would make the LPGA more attractive to TV viewers in the United States, but he portrayed the tour as an undervalued asset for potential sponsors.

"It's one of the undiscovered gems in the whole sports world,'' he said.

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