The PGA Tour has problems. And while I am no Albert Einstein I do have opinions. Here is a brief run down on what I believe the problems to be:
- What were the folks at the Northern Trust Open thinking? They went from $30 per ticket to get on the grounds during the event in 2009 to $50 in 2010! That might have something to do with the sparse crowds around the 18th green on Sunday. (Okay, it was Superbowl Sunday, but the gate for the whole week was significantly down.) Would you rather have two people paying $25 or one paying $50? The answer is clearly two, as they would have far greater spending power when it came to concessions and souvenirs. Not to mention that the event is now 'touching' twice the number of people and the buzz for the event is dramtaically increased. I thought golf needed to grow...
- There are certain long standing events on the PGA Tour that have not seen more than a mere smattering of top 50 golfers for over 10 years. Hagen, Nelson, Snead, Hogan, Palmer and Trevino all won the Texas Open at some point in their illustrious careers. During the last decade the event has seen winners like, Bart Bryant, Robert Gamez, Eric Axley and Tommy Armour III alongside the big names of Justin Leonard and Zach Johnson. I take nothing away from these golfers, but they would not be mentioned in the top 100 golfers of all time. Jack Nicklaus actually won the Disney event three years running! Can you imagine the greatest golfer in the world playing in Milwaukee three years in a row? The PGA Tour has created a major problem for events like the Texas Open (GMO, GHO, Heritage, Hope, Pebble etc.) by inflating the purses, points and value (in sponsors eyes) of the WGC events, the crock FedEx Cup and it's very own darling little event The (non-major)Players. These events have detracted so greatly from the 'regular' events that players, fans and sponsors now, unfortunately, regard them as (dare I say it) second class citizens.
- Tiger Woods won more money in the few events he played in 2008 (prior to taking more than half the year off with a broken leg) than Jack Nicklaus won in his entire career! That's not to mention endorsement money. The purses have increased so dramatically that they are a major reason for the loss of sponsors for tour events around the country. It was only 21 years ago when Curtis Strange defeated Tom Kite in the Tour Championship to be the first player to earn over $1 million in a season. It only took 18 more years for a player to get to somewhere around the $10 milion mark! I have attended many PGA events and it does not take long to realize that the tour has more than their fair share of whiny, spoilt millionaire brats.
- Now appearing at a tour event near you: Mark Calcavecchia; Tommy Armour III; Steve Lowery; Scott McCarron; Billy Andrade; Jeff Maggert and Harrison Frazar! Wow! The advent of "fourth" tier tour events has allowed names like this to remain on tour for years and pick off just enough prize money to sustain a very pleasant existence. There is currently a huge crop of excellent young talent (2007 Walker Cup Team - R.Fowler, W.Simpson, D.Johnson, K.Stanley, B. Horschel, C Knost, J. Lovemark, J.Moore, C. Kirk!) waiting for a chance to tee it up against the big boys, and unless they Monday qualify or get an invite from a sponsor they have one chance a year to get to the dance. There are currently too many "fat cats" hanging around the fringes of the tour for my liking.
Here are my solutions:
- Okay, so we've got the majors, the (non-major) Players and the Tour Championship, which should be a limited field, final event of the year affair making up the upper echelon of events. I say get rid of all the other high-brow WGC and FedEx events (or get them back to the events they always were), make the purses the same at every event ($750k to the winner) and let sponsors sign on for a three year term. The gate fee at every event is $25 (kids under 14 are free) - every day, every event other than the upper tier tourneys. Get people excited to watch the greats!
- Now, you make a rule whereby every player who has been on the tour for 3 consecutive years must play every regular event at least once. That way every sponsor gets a shot at hosting TW or Phil at least once. There is obviously an injury loop-hole clause along with this rule.
- If you finish in the top 90 money winners you get to keep your card! 30 from the Nationwide and 30 from the Q-School also get in. Monday qualifiers are increased to 8 spots, sponsors get 4 spots and any golfer who finishes in the top 20 from the previous regular event gets in too. The best will always get in no matter how the system is set up, but this gives the young set a glimmer of hope and keeps the golden oldies on their toes.
The PGA Tour needs to stop trying to be something it is not - they simply cannot compete with Nascar or the NFL. The glamour of huge purses and fancy events might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but how's that working out for you now Tim?
Start treating all your events and sponsors fairly, open the doors so that as many people as possible can come out to see the best players in the world, give good youngsters ample opportunity and stop babying millionaire golfers. Make them play for what they get - they'll be fine!
Oh, and please let the players take care of their own dry-cleaning too!