From the Rough

Golf without discretion

Has the PGA Tour lost its luster?

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It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for the PGA Tour’s brass. First, there was the whole Turning Stone ordeal that ended with the upstate New York resort leaving the tour schedule in 2011. While the Finchem obviously couldn’t open up a date for the event — the dates two weeks before and after major championships were already booked with long-standing events — the departure of another tour stop meant there was going to be another hole in the Fall series schedule.

And with at least nine tournaments still sponsor-less in 2011, the last thing the tour needed was more negative publicity. As much as Tim Finchem has tried to paint a rosy picture of the tour’s future, it’s clear there are some major question marks out there that need to be answered.

Namely, what kind of ammo is the tour going to bring to the table next year when they meet with network execs to discuss a new television contract? That, along with the sponsor questions and a lack of interest in the FedEx Cup, have left golf’s biggest tour in a very precarious position.

The fans and the sponsors aren’t the only ones noticing the change in the tour landscape. Players have started to question the importance of having full-time status on the PGA Tour. And when the players start to waffle on the richest cash cow in the sport … well you know there’s something wrong with the way things are being run.

Rory McIlroy was the first to grab headlines when he told Sean O’Shea that he was going to pass on playing a full slate of events in the States, just a year after he played an entire season on the PGA Tour.

“I found myself in America last year, especially in the FedEx Cup play-off series, just not wanting to be there,” McIlroy said in China where he finished fifth in the WGC-HSBC Champions.

“I started switching on the Golf Channel and watching the Omega European Masters in Switzerland and thinking to myself I would rather be there.

For a tour that prides itself on high quality events and a $10 million purse at the end of the FedEx Cup rainbow, those are the exact comments you don’t want to hear from an up-and-coming player.

But McIlroy isn’t the only one passing on full-time status. World No. 1, Lee Westwood, has already said no thanks to the tour; and Ian Poulter is already said to be considering the exact same thing as Westwood and McIlroy.

Call it European snobbery or a slap in the face, but it definitely doesn’t look good for the tour’s bottom line. The rumored “mass exodus” of European players forced the tour to issue a statement on Monday in an effort to quells fears.

But the Euro’s aren’t the only one’s playing a pick-and-choose schedule. Phil Mickelson has decided to start the season in the UAE, foregoing the chance to play in the Bob Hope. While Mickelson can claim his interest in the UAE was the impetus behind the trip, most already know it has something to do with the money he’ll most likely get for showing up to play in the event.

And that’s what this all boils down to: money. Most of the high-profile players have access to private jets, meaning they can come and goes as they please. While the tour can threaten players with a capped schedule and less access to events, they have to realize that golf is turning into a global game where players will come and go as they please.

And if the PGA Tour wants to survive in this economy, they’ll realize that it would be in their best interest to loosen the rules a bit. After all, it’s the players that make the PGA Tour what it is today, not the events.

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Written by Jonathan Wall

11/10/2010 at 7:13 pm

Posted in PGA Tour, Rory McIlroy

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