by Jeff Skinner
As the world continues to crash down around Tiger Woods all those entities that are tied to his success are nervously evaluating their situation. Some of Tiger’s sponsors have come out in support of him while others are taking a wait and see attitude.
Few organizations are as tied to Tiger’s success as the PGA Tour is. The Tour has seen its popularity skyrocket since Woods has come on the scene and become a dominating force on tour. The television ratings double and triple when Woods is in the field. The tournament purses have grown drastically and the tours revenue has increased dramatically due to the Tiger Effect. Now may be an appropriate time to try and promote other players on tour. Tiger’s troubles will not last forever and he’ll be back soon enough, winning again but he won’t be around forever. The tour should try and lessen its dependency on Woods, or any single player.
The Tour should look at this coming season as an opportunity to promote many of the other attractive players on tour. Tim Finchem should stop calling Woods; he does whatever he wants anyway, and start calling his current superstars and potential stars.
The biggest star on tour, right along with Woods is Phil Mickelson. Phil is already as popular as Tiger and at many tour stops it’s Phil the fans want to see. With his great play at season’s end and the outpouring of support for Amy, Phil is probably more popular than Tiger is now has a chance to the star in 2010.
Finchem should get on the phone to Anthony Kim and gently tell Kim that the tour needs him to play like he did in 2008 and forget 2009. Kim has the skills to be a great player and he has something the tour desperately needs: personality. He has fun on and off the course, like Ray Floyd did in his day. The tour is full of bland, faceless, superior ball strikers. It needs personality and Kim has that and more. He has a huge Asian following and that fits well in Finchem’s plans.
Sean O’Hair is probably the best American player under thirty. A putting tip from Woods last season has given him a complete game and he could be one of the very best players out there. While Woods is philandering, O’Hair is busy raising three young children, much like Jack Nicklaus was doing at this age. He is the “Anti-Woods” and Finchem could promote him as the family man like Nicklaus was.
Ryan Moore has found his game, is playing well and is as individual as they come. His “no endorsement, play for the joy of the game” attitude is a refreshing change to all the logo wearing pros. Finchem would do well to have someone “different” holding a few of those big cardboard checks.
Boo Weekly has a folk hero personality. Hunter Mahan has evolved as a terrific player and shows plenty of emotion. Nick Watney has showed he can win anywhere. These are some of the younger players that could shoulder some of the load for the tour.
There are plenty of “old reliables“ that can carry the tour. Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk and Stewart Cink are all fan favorites. The foreign players that call the PGA Tour home are the best in the world. Geoff Ogilvy, Padraig Harrington, Ernie Els, Camilo Villegas, Retief Goosen, Y.E.Yang, Paul Casey, and Ian Poulter are all excellent players that can help carry the tour.
The tour will be welcoming Rory McIlroy as a full time player in 2010 and he could be just what the doctor ordered. He’s a young, attractive player that plays aggressively and has fun doing it. McIlroy could be the next big thing and the tour should try to ride him all year.
Let’s not try and kid ourselves. Right now there is no one player that can replace Tiger’s popularity, before his “transgressions” were exposed. At some point next year, Woods will play and win and he’ll regain his status as the number one draw on tour, but he won’t be playing forever. It would be a wise strategy for the tour to try and make the tour less dependent on one player: the more players that can sell tickets, the better for the tour.
Only a few years ago the biggest draws on tour were Tiger, Phil and John Daly. If Big John can stay out of trouble and make a few cuts Finchem should use him as his ace in the hole. When Tiger and Phil are not in the field, Daly gets an automatic sponsor’s exemption. He’ll get fans out to the course.
It’s time to pull out all the stops Tim, and build a tour following of players, not just one player.