Tiger To Blame For Death of International?

Here’s a clip from NBC which in part blames Tiger—of the lack of Tiger—for the death of the International. 

The Denver Post also makes the implication in an article on the demise of the tournament:

Tiger Woods only played twice, the last time in 1999 when it was played a week after the PGA Championship, and that became an issue with Vickers. He often lamented the absence of golf’s top draw, and he continued to ask the tour for different dates. It moved from a week after the PGA Championship to two weeks before the final major, then the week before the PGA.

The AP’s Arnie Stapleton echoes the thought:

Yet the biggest factor was the absence of Woods, who hadn’t played in the event since 1999.

“I’d have to say, yeah, if he shows, everything changes,” Vickers told The Associated Press. “But I also know, in fairness to him, he can’t be everywhere. He can’t be everything to everybody.”

Vickers said he was unsuccessful in getting a commitment from Woods, who didn’t come when the event was held in August because it was so close to the PGA Championship, and that prevented him from closing deals with companies he was courting.

“On the one hand, the Tour’s asking for a new five- or six-year commitment and you’ve got a one-man show out there right now that is the big difference,” Vickers said. “And I’ve tried to get an expression, ‘So let’s be honest with each other. Just tell me, if it’s no, it’s no. But I’d like to know if out of six years, you’d play a couple years, even three years. I’d be happy as a lark.’ But I can’t get any commitment.”


It’s an interesting thought. And while exaggerated, it falls in line with my thesis that, increasingly, Tiger is BAD for the PGA Tour. Or perhaps, that Tiger can be bad if the Tour lets it get that way.

Yes, I know that Tiger is single handedly responsible for the exponential increase in purses and interest in golf. But I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing.

There clearly are now two classes of tournaments in golf: not majors and regular Tour events, but Tiger and Non-Tiger events. In the current financial structure, if the Blessed Saint Tiger decides to grace you with his presence (or at least holds out the chance that he will), your Tournament will do well. If not, you may struggle.

The International is perhaps a case in point. It had a great course, a unique scoring system, and apparently was a favorite of many of the top golfers. But it had gone for three years without a sponsor—some say because Tiger had made it clear that he was never, ever going to play there.

I think that the FedEx Cup is the PGA’s attempt to insulate itself against Tiger’s whims. It’s supposed to make him play more often. And I think it will—the first year; and maybe the second. I would not be at all surprised to see him choose not to participate in the future.

Tiger does only what’s good for Tiger. You can see that in his absence from this past weekend’s (and indeed, nearly every year’s) Pebble Beach Pro Am. He took a fat payoff from some rich oil sheik to play in a no-name ego driven event, and thus missed the Pebble Beach.  That’s good for Tiger’s billion dollar bank account, but bad for the Tour. The Pebble Beach is the place where corporate executives—the sponsors and lifeblood of the PGA Tour—get to hobnob with the players they support.

Now, Tiger apparently will—for the first time—miss the Nissan Open. That’s the tournament that gave him his first PGA Tour exemption—at age 16.

So why is he missing the Niissan? I think it’s because he’s never won there. Tiger tends to win on the same courses over and again—forty percent of his wins have come on just six courses. He’s never won at Riviera, and thus playing there would not maximize his chances of extending his run at Nelson’s record. His holiness is in search of just two things: records and checks. And Riviera doesn’t offer enough of either.

In other words, it’s not good for Tiger.

The PGA Tour should start right now preparing right now for life without Tiger. I think it would surprise no one if—once he breaks Sam Snead’s record 88 wins—Tiger decides to go “Bobby Jones”: coming out only for the majors and a couple of other select warm up events. He doesn’t need the PGA Tour.

I think that the Tour’s strategy has got to be similar to that of the Champions Tour—making the events more fan friendly; getting the players to engage the spectators; offering on-the-course chit-chat. The tour needs to build up such a massive massive reservoir of good will among fans that when Tiger and his scowl leave, no one will notice.

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7 thoughts on “Tiger To Blame For Death of International?”

  1. I don’t think that it all depends upon Tiger. That’s why I said the International MAY be a case in point, and why I said he is increasingly bad, not absolutely bad for the PGA Tour.

    I do, think, however, think that the current level of financing depends upon Tiger. The Tour existed before and will exist afterwards. But if they want to keep up with the inflated purses, they have to insulate themselves against the Tiger crash. And that was pretty much my point.

    It may be the case that a Tigerless tournament like the International cannot compete in comparison to the favored tournaments. That’s certainly what some are arguing.

    I think that Tiger is bad only if the Tour takes him for granted and decides to ride the wave without preparing for a landing on the beach.

    Tiger rationally does what is best for Tiger—and as an economist, I would not expect otherwise. But that is not necessarily what is best for the Tour.

    Everything I’ve read indicates that the NBA suffered a serious decline in popularity after Jordan retired. I read recently (although I can’t find the reference) that as many as a dozen of the NBA franchises are on the brink of financial insolvency. That is NOT a league that did a very good job of managing the explosion of interest due to a superstar player.

    It might be said that the post Gretzky NHL also was mismanaged.

    Interestingly, Bettman was involved in both those situations.

  2. So as a fellow economist (lol, funny how life works) I guess I would have to say that this is a classic case of game theory. For the PGA to be succesful it seemingly has to anticipate what Tiger will do. If it bets on Tiger showing up and he doesn’t then that particular tournament is more likely to fail. If Tiger in theory quits all together then they will have to find another way to bring up attendence.

    My question to you, is what would you suggest the PGA tour does to remedy the situation?

    Also, as an economist, what is your opinion on the overall cost vs. benefit of having Tiger on the tour, keeping in mind that tournaments will succeed and fail regularly whether Tiger is around or not?

  3. I think that what the PGA Tour has to do is give people a reason to watch other than Tiger—and that means that the other players are going to have to work much harder at being friendly and accessible. That way, even when Tiger is not playing, there’s a reservoir of good will among viewers. Perhaps they should try some of the things that the Champions Tour is doing, with inside the ropes fairway interviews, players interacting more with fans, etc.

    The players aren’t going to like it, but it’s for their own good.

    As for the cost-benefit of Tiger, I really believe that it’s a short term v long term thing. In the short term, Tiger is mostly good, driving up interest and thus, purses.

    But that creates an unrealistic crest, which will come crashing down as soon as he’s out of the picture.

    Again, I think that the Tour’s Fedex Cup is their attempt to use Tiger’s popularity to establish something that will outlast him.

  4. ” if the Blessed Saint Tiger..”
    WOW, you’re packing sone resentment. 

    IM going to be brutally hoenst, I never watched golf before Tiger Woods. There, I said it. Not only that, if he’s not IN a tournament, Im most likely not going to watch.  Why? Because I dont like ayone else on the same level & as I do him. I follow his moves, want him to do well, and hes the only golfer I identify with. The only other guy I find myself rooting for is Els.

    Truthfully, i understand your ire, but so much of it seems to be misplaced. Tiger is playing uder the same rules everyone else played under and he’s doing fantastically well. I guess you’d prefer a PGA tour without Tiger, which I personally wouldnt watch.
    But dont you think the ONLY way to get Tiger to do things which are hurtful to HIS play is to madate it?  Why on Earth should he play a zillion tournaments if hes mor successful with his current rate? Unless the PGA SPECIFIES certain tournaments MUST be attended, then he shouldnt be held to task for basically doing what everyone does, or would do in his position..trying to win.

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