From the Rough

Golf without discretion

The Zurich Classic of New Orleans just can’t catch a break

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You have to feel for tournaments like the Zurich Classic. For one week out of the year, New Orleans plays host to a PGA Tour event that’s been a part of the professional golf scene since 1938.

The event, which is currently played at the TPC Louisiana, is supposed to be a week to not only recognize a great golf layout, but a fantastic city as well. It’s a city that surely deserves a chance to take over the spotlight for a couple of days each year.

But once again that wasn’t the case. Lorena Ochoa’s retirement announcement, coupled with Ken Green’s return to the sport and some wretched weather in New Orleans all but turned the event into a blip on the tour’s radar.

Not only did the tournament have to contend with golf news events, they also had to deal with the task of going up against the New Orleans Jazz Festival, an event that will always bring out the masses in a Jazz-rich city like New Orleans.

John Strege discussed the tournament’s hard luck in his Monday Qualifier article, making note of the fact that the tournament was using K.J. Choi as the headliner to draw fans to the event (yikes!).

So why is this tournament so overwhelmingly ignored by the game’s elite that K.J. Choi was considered a headliner this year?

Only two players in the top 50 in the World Ranking played the Zurich last week — Sergio Garcia (23rd) and Choi (34th), a past champion.

Its date was a liability, too. This year, it was played opposite the New Orleans Jazz Fest, news of which helped obscure what was transpiring at the TPC Louisiana. The Jazz Fest headliners on Saturday, for instance, were Simon and Garfunkel, who in a city that will always favor music over golf (notwithstanding New Orleans’ golf heritage) will always trump Garcia and Choi.

You know that’s never a good thing when Choi (34th in the World Golf Rankings) is the best player in the field. While the tournament did lose out on Ian Poulter and Steve Stricker to WD’s prior to the event, you’d think the tour would do a better job of placing the tournament in the schedule given the sponsor of the event.

Zurich, the financial services giant, is a massive player in the tour’s sponsorship future.

[New Orleans has] a sponsor whose benevolence is befitting a tournament with so rich a heritage, Zurich, which anted up $6.4 million, among the largest purses offered with the exception of major championships and FedEx Cup playoff events.

Zurich, it would behoove the players to know, is one of the PGA Tour’s greatest benefactors, one of only two companies to sponsor two events (the other is AT&T), its subsidiary, Farmers Insurance, now underwriting San Diego’s tour stop.

If you want to get to the bottom of the tour’s inability to keep sponsors for next year, New Orleans and Zurich would be a great place to start. Talk about giving one of your biggest sponsors the finger. While I understand that some events get preferential treatment based on the names they bring in, you can’t expect a Zurich to hang around and be happy shelling out big bucks for a laughable spot in the tour schedule.

Tim Finchem needs to get a clue and use the Zurich as an example of what not to do when you’re staring down the barrel of a 2011 season that has NINE tournaments without sponsors.

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Written by Jonathan Wall

04/26/2010 at 12:40 pm

One Response

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by JR Wall. JR Wall said: The Zurich Classic of New Orleans just can't catch a break: http://wp.me/pqhu1-iY […]


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