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How Tiger Woods Ruined The PGA Tour

Saturday, April 19, 2008 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 2:31 AM, under , , ,

Los Angeles, CA (Apr 19, 2008) - With Tiger Woods recently announcing his knee surgery, and the television networks crying in despair that Tiger will not be playing in the events they televise, I thought it would be a good time to reprint this piece, which I published March 17, 2007 on "The Business Controls Caddy".

Something rare is happening this week. Tiger Woods is actually playing in a PGA Tour event. It is right in his backyard, so he did not have to travel far from his pregnant wife. Now I know the headline on this topic makes it sound like this post is going to be anti-Tiger, but only a little bit and it is not his fault. I love to watch golf on TV when he is playing a big tournament and has a shot at winning, He is a phenomenal player and has done so much good work with his millions. But that is the crux of the problem. I cannot bear to watch golf when he is not playing unless I have a personal interest (like seeing former boss Mark Calcavecchia win last week at the age of 46). And that is not Tiger's fault, it is the fault of the PGA Tour and all of the changes they have made over the years.

Misstep 1: Creating the All-Exempt Tour

I long for the days when only the top 60 players kept their tour cards for the next year. This meant that every Monday, tour "rabbits" (so named because they had to hop from tournament to tournament hoping to get a spot in a given week), had to qualify to play that week. On a typical Monday, you would have over 100 players vying for as few as 10 spots in a week. And even if they made the tournament, they had to make the cut that week to make money and be exempt into the next week's tournament. This made players hungry and more competitive. There was no Nike Tour to fall back on. You either played well, or went hungry. Having a Top 60 truly created 'superstars' of the game. And because there were only 60 that could be at the top, players could ill-afford to selectively play in what tournaments that felt like playing. Now, you have 125 players who do not have to worry about when and where they are going to play, and this weakens the fields for many tournaments.

Misstep 2: The Tiger Effect

Tiger Woods is not going to be around forever, but the PGA Tour and TV networks sure hope he can be. Why? Well the TV Networks (CBS and NBC) have bet a lot of money to keep Tour events on the air. They know that their ratings depend on the presence of Tiger and the other top players. If they are not playing, the ratings go down and the advertisers are not happy. And since this is now an all-exempt tour, there is no guarantee who is going to show up and play. Of course, the Tour, with the high-priced TV Contracts, has pushed the purses (money to be one) to astronomical levels. So for events to survive, they have to get corporate sponsorship. But corporate sponsors are not going to pony up money without some marquee value to give them a return. Now, tournaments such as the International and the B.C. Open are gone from the schedule. Any tournament that loses a corporate sponsor should worry because it can and will happen to them too.

Misstep 3: Playing on Dog Tracks

Most of the courses on the tour are set up for birdie binges. Does the tour not understand that most fans like to see US Open type conditions so that the pros have to earn their victories. I think the ratings would go way up for tournaments if they had to see players survive rather than who can make more birdies for a 21 under par score. I also hate all of the tournaments played on TPC course. Some are cool and challenging, like Sawgrass, but some are just plain abominations like to TPC at Avenel (outside of DC). Moving the then (and now defunct) Kemper Open from Congressional Country Club to Avenel was a joke. The TPC at Sugarloaf (Atlanta) was built for real estate, not golf.

Misstep 4: Letting Tiger Make the Rules

We now have the FedEx Cup, a season long points race to determine an overall champion. It culminates in the fall, opposite college football and the NFL. Yawnnnnnn. This came at the insistence of Tiger, who doesn't bother to participate in events. Of course he does not have to. Win one tournament and you have made a million dollars in prize money.

The Bottom Line

There are 124 other players out there this year who have benefited from the Tiger effect, and so it would not be wise or even make sense for them to speak up. But there has to be a back-up plan for they day that Tiger stops playing and winning. Otherwise the bottom might just fall out on the PGA Tour.

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