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When is it too much money?

There’s lots of discussion about the decision on the part of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to skip this week’s Tour Championship. After all, it is supposed to be one of the premium events on the tour’s schedule, but Phil da Thrill and Woods have determined that playing golf for another week would simply leave them too exhausted.

As Lorne Rubenstein points out in his Scoregolf.com column this week, this really comes down to cold, hard cash and the fact there’s simply so much of it floating around professional golf. Woods has made $10 million this year without even playing a full schedule. Mickelson essentially shut it down following the PGA Championship.

Rubenstein makes a strong point about the message sent by the abscence of Woods and Mickelson:

If the PGA Tour ever needed reminding that its members run their own shows, this week is proof. Case closed. The PGA Tour puts on a tournament worth $6.5 million at East Lake, a strong course in Atlanta, and poof, the two biggest names in the game yawn and say they won’t be showing up.

While I’m aware PGA Tour pros are independent contrators, the time has come for the tour to determine that, barring an injury, certain players are simply going to play certain tournaments. What does it say to Coca-Cola, this week’s sponsor, when the best players can’t be bothered to show up for a US$6.5 million purse?

With this in mind, Tim Finchem’s state of the game press conference yesterday pushing the new FedEx Cup couldn’t have come at a worse time.

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Interestingly, when I played with Charles Warren (a member of the player advisory board) at the Canadian Open Pro-Am in September, he spent a great deal of time asking what I knew and understood about the FedEx system. I told him there was a lot of money on the line and the hope was the new system would add some excitement to the tournaments after the PGA Championship. Warren admitted the tour had not clearly communicated the benefits of the FedEx, but would do so soon.

Apparently this is where Finchem, who gives lawyers a bad name when it comes to offering buzz words and catch phrases spoken through some sort of MBA/Law Degree translator, was supposed to step up yesterday.

Finchem offered his take on the year and then settled into the FedEx deal:

Let me start first with the season long competition, the FedEx Cup. This is a major shift for the PGA TOUR. It is designed to really do three things: One, increase the importance of every week on the PGA TOUR, and as a consequence we think improve the quality of fields on average as we go through the season; secondly, create our version of the playoffs.

Hard to imagine how it will improve fields, given Woods’ and Mickelson’s decision not to play this week. Of course, Woods is so tired that he’s playing in China next week.

Having been hammered by criticism about Woods and Mickelson, Finchem is clearly having a tough time arguing that $10 million will make either of this top two players show up. He had this to say on the matter:

Finchem: You know, I often hear comments like that about, Well, players are making so much money it’s not an incentive anymore. I don’t think we should look to the FedEx Cup as being a competition that the money, which is significant, is the dominating criteria. I think it’s impactful, but what we want the FedEx Cup to be and hopefully it will be is when you win the season it really meant something.

More to the point, there was a question about Tiger’s participation:

Q. Do you have any guarantee from Tiger that he’ll play all four?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I don’t have guarantees from anybody.

Hard to imagine anything more defining when it comes to the FedEx Cup — “I don’t have guarantees from anybody.”

Finchem’s full transcript is here.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • RT…

    This is all very interesting, particularly in the context of the Canadian Open. It is apparent that the top players are making incredible amounts of money and good for them!!.

    Professional golf is all about performance and independent contractors. Players are not owned by the PGA Tour or by anybody else. This is all really relevant in the context of the Canadian Open, particularly when you sports writers are critical of tournament organizers because some of the top players decide to pass on the event. Finchem, the PGA Tour, and an unbelieveably large purse are not enough to attract the top talent to this week’s event. This is all about economics and the top players picking and choosing when and where they play. It has nothing to do about whether our event was a fifth major in the 70s, or about the tournament’s history, or about this golf course or that golf course. .

    Times have changed. Economics have changed. Yet when the top players don’t show up this week, the Canadian media blame the ‘system’. When the top players don’t show up for the Canadian Open it is somehow the tournament organizers’ fault. The fact is it is really nobody’s fault. The top players are simply masters (no pun intended) of their own lives and that is just a reality. I wish we all could be so fortunate. Good for Tiger and Good for Phil. More power to them. It is all about democracy and capitalism. Nothing more and nothing less.

    A guarantee that Tiger shows up? Why would or should Tiger have to do that? He doesn’t owe anybody anything. He can decide for himself when and where he plays!!!!

  • a system similar to the LPGA where members have to play every tournament in a 3 year cycle would be good for the PGA. Even implementing a 5 year cycle would be great to see.

  • Are you guys suggesting that Tiger Woods somehow owes anything to Coca Cola, the sponsor of this week’s event?

    Poor Coca Cola, one of the best brands and one of the biggest companies in the world. I can’t contain my carbonated tears. Life is just so unfair. They threw a party expecting Tiger and Phil to show up, but got a pass from both. What is the world coming to? If Coca Cola calls, don’t you know that one is required to show up? What has the world come to?

    More power to the players! They are the show.

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