A Higher Profile Senior Moment?
By Torleif Sorenson on 7/29/14
It all began in 1937, when the PGA of America held the PGA Seniors' Championship at Augusta National. But the really big development was the Legends of Golf, a made-for-TV event in 1978. It was so successful that the PGA Tour started the Senior PGA Tour just two years later. In order to make the brand more attractive to casual viewers, the name changed to the Champions Tour in October of 2002. The tour now has five events designated as major championships, along with several events that are very well-attended each year, regardless of the television coverage.

But over the last several years, prize money is down — from US $55.2 million in 2007 to $51.5 million this year. The number of tournaments has declined as well, from 29 in 2007 to 26 this year. And this must make PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem rather perturbed.

One report in Golf World last week indicated that a seniors version of the Ryder Cup could be announced as early as next week at the PGA Championship. The magazine suggested that two teams of ten players would play for the best of 30 points during the event. If they do, your humble correspondent predicts that they will name it after Jack Nicklaus.

In a column published in the same magazine last week, the excellent author John Feinstein suggested that the PGA Tour scrap the Presidents Cup and replace it with a Ryder Cup-style set of matches featuring the 12 best 50-and-older players versus the 12 best 49-and-younger players. And in order to keep things from getting out of hand, his idea was to put them on a links with narrow fairways.

Feinstein's rationale is that the young players would not want to lose to the "geezers," and that it could help revitalize the Champions Tour, which Feinstein described as "long-staggering."

The problem with Feinstein's idea is that Finchem is highly unlikely to let go of a regular PGA Tour date to put on such an event. Making the spectacle an opposite-field event, a la the newly-named Barracuda Championship in Reno, which is opposite the much higher-profile WGC-Bridgestone, would be a less distasteful option, but still rather dubious.

This writer's opinion is that the future might actually be in the International Crown format successfully demonstrated by the LPGA just this past weekend.

The problem is that if any of these formats don't ultimately help the senior circuit regain traction, then what happens? The Tour is also trying to boost their minor-league circuit, currently known as the Web.com Tour.

If your region does not have a PGA Tour or LPGA event, what would you rather go see? Yesterday's stars today, or tomorrow's stars today?

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Image via Champions Tour

[ comments ]
bkuehn1952 says:
Part of the attraction of the senior tour years ago was getting to watch some players who had been somewhat out of the limelight for a while. Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Gary Player had not been competitive for many years and suddenly there they were again, winning tournaments. Throw in some characters like Chi Chi and Miller Barber and it was fun.

Today it seems to be more about money and some of the stars don't bother with the senior tour at all (e.g. Greg Norman) while others essentially retired at 45 and lost their game. Fewer senior events is fine with me.
joe jones says:
The Champions Tour has always had a problem with dominance by the youngest players that come on the scene each year.At this time Bernhard Langer is running roughshod over the other players.Lee Trevino, Hale Irwin etc. did the same thing when they came on the senior tour. This can be a double edge sword.People love to see some of the greats do well but if they dominate it projects an image of the others on the tour being less talented.It's the further thing from the truth. The tour must stress the fact that they are playing tough golf courses with yardages that were unheard of years ago and that " these guy's are really good".The announcers must stress the ball striking ability of the players and how they just don't Bomb and Gouge their way around a golf course.I hope the Oobers contribute to this posting. Do you watch the Champions tour. If so why? If not why not?
DougE says:
I do watch the senior tour from time to time, but not on a regular basis. I'm not sure why, but the excitement surrounding senior tour events is not very high. Love watching Fred Couples, Tom Watson, Bernhard Langor and so many other big name seniors, but for whatever reason, I can't get that excited about it. And, I'm in that over 50 demographic, so you would think I'd be much more interested in guys my own age who can play the hell out of the ball.

I have much more interest in watching LPGA events.

I think the Champions Tour needs better marketing. They need a way to create more excitement. I like the idea of an over-50 vs. young guns Ryder Cup-style tournament...on network TV with lots of TV, radio, print and internet build-up. Play it on a track where length can easily get you in trouble, to level the playing field. Then let's see who really has the game, the hot studs or the old men. I would not bet against the seniors. Win or lose, this would certainly be a great way to promote the Champions Tour.
GBogey says:
Golf is struggling and so is the Senior Tour - go figure. To me the Senior Tour was about seeing personalities you loved - Jack, Arnie, Lee Trevino, etc. I just don't think today's group has that zing. I'm also with DougE, given a choice of the two I'd probably pick the LPGA.
CeeBee says:
I've been thinking about this for about 10 minutes staring at the screen re-reading these posts. Trying to come up with the magic or some sage wisdom no one has thought about. But to no avail.

To me it's simple. Tiger had 14 majors in June of 2008. Interest was sky high. At least mine was. I could not wait for the next major event. Any time now the record would be shattered. Nobody was gonna miss that. Then we all know what transpired from there. He still has 14 majors six years later and, in my opinion, won't get there.

That, gentlemen, is a tremendous letdown for the industry, the PGA and me.

By the way. There are only four (4) true majors. The rest are just tournaments.
slimpks1850 says:
"tremendous letdown" Woods.
-Yeah, Earl. That's his new nickname.

--You know what else is a let down. Everyone else compared to Tiger (version1). Damn, he was good. (still kick myself for "missing" it)
Shallowface says:
The problem with the current Champions Tour is that they've done everything they can to prevent one thing that used to be great about it. That is, success stories such as Walt Zembriski, Larry Laoretti, Jim Albus, Rocky Thompson, Allen Doyle, Dana Quigley and others. Good players who had no regular tour career to speak of, getting a second chance after turning 50. Now, players of this type have very little to no access. Also, and it may have been marketing to the delusional, but part of the appeal was that a guy in his 40s who is a pretty good player and hates his current life can dream of being a touring pro after 50. The fact that he never really had a chance is irrelevant.
Instead, we're stuck with this group that no one wanted to watch on the pre-Tiger regular tour of the early 90s.
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