Is The Tour, And Golf, OK Without Tiger?
So, grooves notwithstanding, the big story in professional golf this year is Tiger’s return to competition. No one really knows when he’ll come back to play, and speculation abounds. Heck, Vegas bookies are even working this one, with odds on when he’ll play again.

So, the big question seems to be, not whether Tiger’s absence hurts the Tour, but how much?

Well, my take is that maybe the PGA Tour and competitive golf in general might actually benefit from Tiger’s absence. I find professional golf to be pretty darn boring to be honest. It’s a way to make a great living . . . no, A FORTUNE . . . if you can just keep your card. But entertainment? Not to me anyway.

In 2009, Tiger topped the money list with over $10 million, and you have to go all the way down to number 91 on the list to find the last “millionaire”, Kevin Streelman. Now, this is not to knock this player, because I know nothing about him, so I’m speaking metaphorically here. Did Mr. Streelman provide us with a million dollars worth of entertainment? Did he provide his pro-am partners with $3-4,000 of fun and enjoyment for their few hours with him? Is he really adding anything to the product of professional golf?

In 2009, Will Mackenzie finished 126 on the money list, so he lost his playing privileges. Darn . . . but he also made $650,000, so that might have eased the pain a bit, ya think? Not bad pay for a guy who “got fired” because he wasn’t good enough, huh?

Compare that to 1995, before Tiger hit the scene. The top money winner was Greg Norman, with $1.6 million (compared to Tiger’s $10 million last year). Only eight other guys topped a million in earnings, and the last guy to keep his card at number 125 was John Wilson with just under $150,000. Norman certainly wasn’t suffering financially, and Mr. Wilson might have had to consider that maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t his life’s work. And that’s not a bad thing.

Now, do you think the “product” that the PGA Tour offers today is as good as the one that Norman, Jacobsen, Pavin, Duval, Singh, O’Meara, Love III, Stewart, Janzen, Elkington et al, gave us in 1995? I certainly don’t. We felt like we “knew” those guys, didn’t we? They all acted like they were really grateful that they had a chance to play golf for a living. They played to WIN. And they showed no sense of “entitlement” that I sense on the Tour today.

So, what would be so bad if purses went back to those levels or near them? What would be so bad if a company could sponsor a local event to help raise money for charity without being “held up” by the PGA Tour for millions of dollars? What would be so bad if guys who didn’t keep their card had to go find a “real job”, and clear the way for another young gun who wanted to test his mettle against the best?

So, that’s my .02 worth. It will never happen because the PGA Tour exists for the pensions of its players, but I would love to see a rule where you either have to win at least once in three years or you go home. Or even better, you have to place in the top ten in at least 10% of your events every year or your spot is given to a new face, a new personality.

Of course, I’m living in a dream world, but it’s fun to think that way. As long as the PGA Tour designs its “product” for the TV audiences, we’ll never see that. Oh, and by the way, do you realize that over half the viewing audience doesn’t even play golf? And that percentage is much higher when Tiger is playing. Those non-golfers love bomb and gouge, throwing darts into soft greens and winning scores of 20-25 under.

I don’t.

photo source
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[ comments ]
Michael Colucci says:
Amen, Wedge Guy. I went to the BMW Championship at Cog Hill and camped behind the 13th green. Thirty guys came through, and each looked as if they were attending a funeral. I know there is a lot of money at stake, but let's remember that professional golf is entertainment. Perhaps bringing the purses back to more reasonable levels will make these guys realize how fortunate they truly are
mjaber says:
I think what made the 2008 US Open wasn't Tiger and his knee, but it was Rocco and his smile. I loved watching him, I still do, when he gets any TV time. He's always smiling and looking like he's having fun, no matter what his score. It's more fun to watch when you feel like the guys you are watching are having fun.
eventHorizon says:
Its tough to say whether they are worth the value they receive. To me, I think all big league athletes are way over paid but that is just a personal opinion of what I think they are worth. But what if we were looking at the top salaries of doctors or scientists? If the top doctor was required to save my life I would pay top dollar for him to do so. In comparison, these athletes are at the top of their job so they can demand a certain pay and if we as fans are willing to pay. No they might not be the most friendly and sociable guys but they sure put on a show with their skills.

And staying in the top 125 in the world is NOT an easy task.
aaronm04 says:
That "sense of entitlement" is something that permeates all of sports these days. Not just golf. People, more importantly, kids, get so much pressure to perform and do well, the fun evaporates. After so much time, it's the only way they know how to play.
cjgiant says:
As stated, there are more people watching, including more of those who do not play golf. Part of the reason for the attitude towards the fans may be that the fans don't understand the game and it's etiquette. Throw on top of that a media-pervasive world, where anything a player does is instantly dissected, you can perhaps see why a hesitance towards outwardness may be present. However, as people pointed out with Rocco, it is possible.

I agree the tour would be better with a smattering of stars versus one really bright one - and a few "dim" ones (Phil may be medium). Except for majors, I have trouble watching a tournament if there is no player I know or care about in it.
MilSpec4Life says:
I disagree and think golf would not be coming back to the Olympics without Tiger. Furthermore his presence and marketing has surely attracted new interest in the sport. Every sport needs stars, and controversial personalities.
Albatross says:
There is no question that Tiger is a great player, but I wonder if he is as good as the media says he is. Perhaps the other players are just mediocre and content to play for a check. Certainly there are a few others, Phil M, Ernie, Steve Stricker and the others in the top 20 or so in the world rankings, but the majority are just there to make a good (great) living without having to fear the notoriety that comes from winning. I don't know if I agree with the Wedge Guy about lowering the purses. Perhaps we should put all the money in the top 20 places and then lets see if others fight to rise to the top of the game and give Tiger and the other top players some competition.
Les Page says:
It's probably just me. Golf currently is not the same without the best playing. I haven't had a tournament on any longer than it takes to view the leader board. If Manning or Brees weren't on the field today I wouldn't be watching the Super Bowl. Just as they have proven they deserve to be on the field so has Tiger. I hope he is back sooner than later. His off the course activities don't interest me, but his ability to play this game does. I'm sure there are a lot of professional golfers glad they have the opportunity to play for first instead of second though.
Banker85 says:
i cant disagree more. The players today are far more skilled than the ones you named off in 1995. there are so many i am not even going to start naming them! and as far as the money goes thats just the way PROFESSIONAL sports are not just golf. They are all making millions each year even the scrubs who ride the bench. your article doesnt even talk about the absence of Tiger think you got on a tangent. Without the best player in the world playing no one will truly be tested and Tiger made 10 million last year cause he won 9 times. Did Norman win 9 times in 1995? i dont think so.
RocketSauce says:
i agree with the writer. i dont think ANYONE is worth multiple millions of dollars per year for playing a sport. plus, the dang endorsements are so insane that many make more in endorsements than they do in winnings. but i see where the posters who disagree are coming from too. both sides make good points
mjaber says:
I'm routing for both Stricker and Phil to pass Tiger in the World Golf Rankings. How about Steve #1 and Phil #2?
cheymike says:
NO HUMAN is worth 10 million a year, under any circumstances, for any profession, sports or otherwise.
windowsurfer says:
It's what the market will bear. And apparently the market will bear $10MM for TW and $23MM for Tracy McGrady (who has never been past the first McRound) and $0.47 per second for Plaxico Burress to make license plates. Is the market crazy? Yeah. All sports and entertainment is absurdly over-compensated. And we've no one to blame but ourselves -- look at the signatures on Golfwrx forums. It's as if all of us duffers are getting paid to pimp for Nike and Callaway, et al.
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