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.