by Jeff Skinner
I find it comical that there is this growing movement to try and force all PGA Tour pros to play in all the tour events at least once every three, four or five years. These golfers are the most independent of “independent contractors” in sports. Only world class tennis players share this independence with professional golfers. If a golfer has full exempt status on the PGA Tour he is allowed to play in any PGA Tour tournament he chooses, but he does not qualify for the majors by being a PGA Touring pro. If the pro has limited status on the tour, he is on a sort of waiting list and can play in those tournaments that he qualifies for, which means he plays in less tournaments than a fully exempt tour member.
In today’s environment, the lords of golf are searching for ways to keep their revenue from falling. They are looking for ways to keep their purses large and their attendance up. All the talk from the golf world on this subject can be translated to mean,” How can we get Tiger to play more?” That’s the real meaning behind all this bull about trying to get the players to play all the events. Do they want Ben Crane at all the events…or Scott Verplanck..or Woody Austin? No, the bottom line here is that every tournament director, television executive, corporate suit and part time fan wants Tiger to play all the time. I have bad news for those guys and Tim Finchem: forget it, that’s never going to happen. Tiger is his own man, more than anyone else on the tour. He cares about his game and winning majors. He uses the PGA tour to tune up for the majors, tweak his swing and maybe deposit a check or two in Sam’s and Charlie’s college fund.
Message to Tim Finchem: you are as guilty as anyone when it comes to the “Must have Tiger” syndrome. You have changed tour events, given him his own tournament and reconfigured the FedEx cup to cater to his wishes and he still maintains his independence.
Even with the changes in your FedEx Cup, you still can’t get your best players to play in all the events in that so-called playoff.
Let’s say that somehow the PGA Tour passes some mandate that requires tour players to play in every regular season event at least once every three years. Let’s pretend the penalty for not playing is losing your tour card for one year. Here is the “Tiger loses his card” scenario or, Armageddon, as Finchem calls it.
Tiger decides he still wants to play golf so he calls his friends at the European Tour. They immediately give him full playing privileges and a ton of appearance fee money, something that is banned on the U.S. tour. Tiger plays a few Euro events, like he does now, and tunes up for the majors. He will still play in the Masters, seeing that they can invite anyone they like. He plays in the U.S. Open; he has a ten year exemption. He plays in the Open Championship, he is exempt until he is sixty years old. He plays in the PGA Championship, he qualifies by his World Ranking. Tiger plays all three of the World Golf Championship events. Is there anyone that thinks Tiger would not qualify for any tournament? So there are seven events already and Tiger usually plays in about fifteen PGA events per year anyway. He’ll make those up on the Euro Tour while he’s building a new course somewhere in the world or he’ll chill out with the kids. Either way he will not do what the tour mandates him to do. He’ll do what he wants to do. He probably would still be number one in the world and still lead the money list anyway.
Tiger will play when Tiger wants to play. Live with it and move on. Move on and market all the other wonderful stories of all the great people that play this game. The tour will get the “Tiger Bounce” when he plays and that is a bonus, but understand this: You can’t have the “Tiger Bounce” every week. Many of the fans that tune in to watch Tiger play are the same ones that ask “Who’s playing?” at a Super Bowl Party. Take the great television ratings when Tiger plays and enjoy them. Work on promoting the game. Work on showing the stories of the people in this game. Work on spreading the spirit of this game that encourages integrity, honesty, friendship and sportsmanship. Everyone will be better off with a little more golf in our lives.