Finchem: Sagging Economy Won’t Affect Tour

Tim Finchem says that in spite of the economic downturn, the PGA Tour will do fine.

“If you’re a business in the United States, you’re going to experience a downturn every four of five years. That’s just the way it is,” Finchem told a small gathering of the press corps. “So you prepare for it in advance.

“We’ll take our hits. But hopefully those hits won’t be such to derail us from delivering the product we want to deliver and maintaining our charitable structure. Right now we’re going to stay the course.”

For now, the course looks good for 2009. Purses for the regular season, not including the four major tournaments, will be $222.9 million, up from $214.9 million in 2008. As well, the Tour did not lose any tournaments during the meat of its regular-season schedule. And most of the Tour’s events have sponsorship deals that expire after the 2010 season, while the television contracts run through 2012.

However, at the same time, he’s calling on Tour players to chip in and do more to help the Tournaments.

Finchem has sent a video to players and their agents asking them to consider adding tournaments they don’t typically play and to reach out to the sponsors when they are at tournaments, the Sports Business Journal reported.

Throughout the year, tour officials lobby players to consider various tournaments that might need help, but it is rare for Finchem to make the appeal himself.

“We’re asking every player to add a tournament or two to their historical schedule to assist the tournaments that historically have weak fields,” Finchem said in the video. “We have a lot of title sponsors this year that are up for renewal. We have to put our best foot forward in terms of presenting our competitions.”

I think this points out the economically suicidal tendency of the elite players to limit their playing time (Vijay excepted). By restricting themselves to a few tournaments—and to the same tournaments every year—golf’s elite weaken the entire PGA Tour structure.

Those second tier tournaments are important, if for no reason other than the upward pressure they exert on the tournaments above them. If the John Deere offers $756,000 to the winner, that puts pressure on “more prestigious” tournaments to offer up $900,00. Kill off those lower echelon events, and a more popular tournament like the Memorial won’t be under any pressure to offer the million dollar prize.

There also will be less competition for players in offering the perks they enjoy. If a lower division tournament offers free cars, massages and shopping trips for the wives, that forces the others to up the ante.

The sad thing is that the player who could offer the most help doesn’t appear to have any interest in doing so. Tiger has made it quite clear that he will never appear at some tournaments—and indeed, his contumacy has been blamed for the death of at least two events.

I’ve come to the conclusion that—like the LPGA—PGA Tour needs to require its members to play in tournaments at least once every four years.

The likely effect of that, though, will be to have Tiger leave the Tour. But then, I think he will do that fairly soon anyway. He will still make his billion playing in the Majors (none of which the PGA Tour controls) and on sponsors exemptions (who wouldn’t give him one). Tiger also will be able to increase the number of overseas tournaments where he’ll pick up fat appearance fees from the Chinese and Arabs.

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8 thoughts on “Finchem: Sagging Economy Won’t Affect Tour”

  1. Very thought provoking comments about Tiger leaving the PGA. The thought of mandatory appearances makes sense in the long run. Then the next Tiger will “grow up” with that expectation and will have a harder time opting out.

    I appreciated your thinking through of the issue. Most would have missed the uninteded consequence of mandatory appearances. I enjoy reading people who think.

  2. Me thinks that Timmy hasn’t thought this all the way out yet.  If he actually thinks that the tour won’t see an impact, and that this is just one of the normal 4-5 year downturns, he is a full fledged idiot. 
    Maybe measuring by purses and by the expiration on your sponsorships and TV deals you can say you feel ok- but lets see how those renegotiations go in getting all those sponsors to sign back up.  Lets see where attendance is and how those merchandise tents do this year.  My money is not betting on the tour coming out smelling as sweet as it was last year.

  3. I dunno. Nobody can predict what is going to happen with the economy. If you’re Finchem or any CEO, you’re going to rely on what data you have and what information comes in. But I think he’s right in asking the pros to step up. It’s long-term insurance, of a sort.

    As for Tiger leaving the PGA… I’ve a feeling it’s inevitable. The knee surgery was a wake-up call. If he wants to stay viable, it’s going to mean his playing just the majors,d doing more overseas tours, and ‘designing’ a course or two a year.

  4. Whenever anyone says “stay the course” I can’t help but think of Dana Carvey’s Bush impression.

    Tiger leaving the tour – I’ve been expecting that ever since Sam was born.  Once the kiddies start walking and talking, he’s going to want to be with them instead of playing. Plus, there’s one less sponsor to make happy now that he and Buick have parted ways.  Who’s he got left?  Nike?  He practically owns them, so it isn’t like he has to wear the clothes or play the equipment.

  5. I have thought that Tiger would leave at any time as well.  What is the point of him being in the PGA?  As you said, he can get an exemption any time he wants it, but even more than that- any event Tiger would normally play anyway, he has a past champion exemption to that event anyway. 

    What I wonder would be, if he decides to drop the PGA, does he need to do any more Pro-Am days?  Would he then be allowed to just show on Thursday?  That would probably give him a big incentive to leave right now.

    It would seem at this point, if the PGA wants to keep him, they would probably need to pay him a membership bonus or bend to his demands (which of course they would do).

  6. I read a few articles covering this when Daly was in his first year off the tour, and it sounds as if most, if not all the events, allow for past champions regardless of Tour status.

    The question is moot anyway though, because any event will welcome Tiger at any time.  Just like Arnie and Jack, they can show up any Thursday they like and play for no greens fees regardless of their position on the previous year’s money list.


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