From the Rough

Golf without discretion

Does the PGA Tour really need Sergio and Paddy to survive?

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The gloom of the the current economic climate has everyone on edge. With the Dow dropping daily, the unemployment rate rising monthly and superfluous spending dwindling, the PGA Tour and its players are doing everything they can to make sure the current players, and those of the future have a tour to be proud of in the coming years.

Phil Mickelson, one of the most outspoken players on tour, isn’t new to the spotlight. The current No.3 is currently going through his regular Masters prep schedule prior to the event in Augusta, Ga. “I’m playing five in a row. I don’t know how I could really increase it any more,” Mickelson said recently in a phone interview. “Everything I have done to this point has been with the Masters in mind. I will probably keep the attention focused on the four majors as opposed to increasing sponsor relations but I’m certainly not opposed to adding here or there.”

Unlike most players, Mickelson doesn’t need the money and the outside sponsors to keep him afloat. With Rolex, Callaway and KPMG all in-tow, Lefty will continue to pick and choose his tournaments the rest of the way.

But outside of Mickelson, Tiger and the rest of the World Ranking’s Top 25, there’s a good chance you’ll see players scrambling to fill the spots in Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the Travelers Championship with a thank you and a warm smile on their face.

Being your own boss on tour makes golf one of the most unique sports around. Unlike Nascar where you’d fall out of the race for the Cup by picking and choosing events, golf is one of the rare sports where the money and the point system allows you to be a picky person.

Don’t like a course? Drop it from your schedule. Tired after three weeks of traveling between West Coast events? Take a break and come back when you feel rested. For the most part golf is THE sport where you really get to call your own shots.

As noted previously, with the economy sagging, the PGA and European Tour’s are doing everything in their power to keep their sport on the highest level. The PGA installed a new points system for the FedEx Cup that’s supposed to help fix the previous issue of having a dull Tour Championship finale. While the European Tour has all but thrown their eggs in one basket by adding the Race to Dubai as their big end of the year event.

The outcome? PGA Tour is fighting to keep its best players when they need them the most; while the European Tour continues to sway some of the best in the world to reconsider their golfing schedules.

Mickelson, like many players, understands that the future of golf sits squarely on the shoulders of PGA commissioner Tim Finchem and his staff. And because of it, Mickelson believes the best in the world — including Europe’s best — should be playing more of their games across that pond. And that includes PGA and British champion, Padraig Harrington, and Spaniard, Sergio Garcia.

“We need guys like Harrington and García to play more over here in the States and help drive the PGA Tour and [its] revenue and interest in the game as a whole,” said Mickelson.

Garcia and Harrington are marquee names, but considering their affinity for Europe, wouldn’t it make more sense for Mickelson to call upon guys who already play exclusively on the PGA to consider making a change?

Considering golf’s lone wolf image, it would be hard to ask players like Brandt Snedeker, Boo Weekley, and Anthony Kim to reconsider playing their scheduled 12 events in Europe this season (all are trying to qualify for the Race to Dubai). Wouldn’t it have at least made more sense to seek out a guy like Kim to see if he would consider holding off on Europe for a season to help the tour?

I’m sure he’d consider it if Tiger or Phil came to him and asked. After all, most would agree that Kim is a bigger draw than either Harrington or Garcia. Would the two make a big difference in the television ratings if they playing only on the PGA Tour? Some might say yes; others would say that as long as you have Tiger Woods it doesn’t matter.

But honestly, if Tim Finchem wants to have the best product possible, then he needs to start at the source of the problem, which is, of course, the Race to Dubai.

Finchem has never come off as a very warm person, so I doubt he’d go calling his own players even at this stage. But instead of having Mickelson in interviews asking Garcia and Harrington to play more in the States, it would make more sense for the tour to start looking in their own backyard.

Talking to some of the big names (most especially Anthony Kim) that are about to start splitting their time could be the deciding factor — or it couldn’t.But considering the tour’s current state, I think it’d make sense to talk to an Anthony Kim or Boo Weekley over two European’s who will continue to go by the beat of their own drummer.


Written by Jonathan Wall

02/05/2009 at 8:35 pm

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