Reading a recent USA Today article that hinted that the Tour may actually increase the number of events leading to the Fedex Cup Playoffs got me to thinking about how to increase interest and exposure in the PGA Tour, while staying out of an immediate (and unwinnable) conflict with fall football.
Here’s the GolfBlogger Plan to Restructure Professional Golf: stagger the seasons of the PGA and Nationwide Tours.
Under the GolfBlogger Plan, the PGA Tour would run from January through August, culminating in the FedEx Cup playoffs. The Nationwide would start the first week of April and run to November, culminating in the (Insert Name of Sponsor) Cup. The prize on the Nationwide, however, would not be $10 million (although a couple of million would be nice), but elevation to the Big Show. Lets say that the final six or eight would earn their tour cards. The overall winner would get an automatic spot in the Players Championship the following May.
The big difference for the Big Tour is that the season would be shorter and that there would be no PGA Tour events after the Cup is awarded. None. The way to make the Cup meaningful is to make it final. The Superbowl would not be as big a deal if—after playing the championship—there still were three weeks of other games to play. Events after the Big Match are meaningless and will wither on the vine. Tournament organizers and sponsors already know this … which is why you saw so much complaining and scrambling from those who had been relegated to the dead zone.
As it stands now, the ostensible reason for the post-championship tournaments is to allow players on the bubble to work to keep their cards. But that’s flawed reasoning. No matter when you make the deadline, the top 125 still are going to get to keep their cards. If you played 52 weeks or five, at the end, the top 125 are in.
Ending the Big Tour after the Cup would keep the number of events to a very managable 32 (from the current 47). A real problem for professional sports is the impulse to meet increased demand with increased supply. People were interested in hockey, so hockey expanded the number of teams until the talent was watered down and a quarter of the teams were marginally solvent. The Tour would do better by limiting supply thus increasing value. With just 32 events, each one is going to be a big deal. And with 32, there is a much greater chance that each tournament will have several of the big stars (thus making sponsors more happy).
Q School would start the second week of November and culminate in a late December finish.
The GolfBlogger Plan would create interest in up-and-coming players among golf fans by highlighting the “presure packed” playoff for a spot on the following year’s Tour. With the Big Tour over, I personally would be interested in watching the Nationwide and seeing who would be in the next rookie class. It’d be far more interesting than watching meaningless post Cup events. The Tour needs to create buzz about players coming through the pipes. Look at what college football does for the pros. Speculation is always rampant about which college stars are coming out, and which need another season of playing time. I know people whose only real interest in the college game is to see who might be available for their favorite pro team.
Part of the thinking here is that the Tour needs to start looking at the Nationwide Tour as an integral part of a total golf package, rather than a place where you go when you aren’t on the Big Show. Allowing the Nationwide to end the “Golf Season” with no PGA Tour distractions would help it to create an identity of its own. If television wants to broadcast golf in the fall, they can show the Nationwide and its playoff.
That leaves the question of what to do with the Senior Tour. I had a half-baked idea that it should run from October to April and play only in warm weather climes, but realized that there are lots of cooler weather places that love the Senior Tour that would be left out. It may be best to leave it where it is, since it’s essentially a performance, and not a competition. People don’t go to see who wins; they go to see the fading stars.
A final thought: Limiting the PGA and Nationwide events to 32 each could increase the health of all four US Tours (including the LPGA). Increased competition for spots among sponsors would drive up payments. Those who couldn’t get a PGA Tour spot would then compete for a Nationwide, Senior or LPGA Tournament. It could even increase the health of the mini tours. Companies who were willing to sponsor the bottom of the totem pole Nationwide events might be convinced to sponsor one on the Hooters or whatever else is in their area.