As the season opening Mercedes Championship begins this week, there are more than a couple notables missing from the lineup.
And Ron Sirak of GolfWorld says that’s likely to be par for the course. Early—and late—season events are going to suffer from a lack of star power.
Sirak says that players now are driven by “convenience, not cash”, and that the FedEx cup may just make things worse:
The FedEx Cup will demand an intense playing schedule from the British Open in mid-July through the Tour Championship in mid-September. Time off has to come somewhere, and in skipping the Mercedes, Woods and Mickelson have given a hint which stretch of the schedule will suffer. Winter used to be for rest; now, it’s the time for Silly Season events, for overseas appearance fees (Vijay Singh is playing the Abu Dhabi Open in January) and for the several days a year players owe to their endorsement partners, from whom they earn even more money than they make on the golf course.
And money is at the root of all of this. You don’t have to play much—or win much—to make a lot of money on Tour these days. Four of the top ten players in the world weren’t invited to the Mercedes because they didn’t win in 2005. Yet these same four totaled nearly $14 million in earnings.
So with those kind of economcs working, the top players can afford to be picky. It makes sense for them to play a reduced schedule (Sirak claims they’re not), or avoid the early and late events in favor of ones in the high summer,.
Think about this: What if Tiger were to play only in the four majors, plus a couple of others that he is contractually obligated to play. He doesn’t need to play the PGA Tour minimum—or even be a member of the PGA Tour. He can play in any event he likes with a sponsor’s exemption. And he’s likely to win enough money to still stay in the top ten.