Don't sound the alarm: there are benefits to fewer PGA Tour golf events
The PGA Tour kicked off its 2010 season Thursday in Maui, and it comes with a slight sigh of relief, as SBS stepped in for Mercedes as the title sponsor of the Kapalua Resort’s invitational of last year’s event winners.
But while many of last year’s cancelled events on the tour schedule have been replaced in some way, even commissioner Tim Finchem has admitted it’s likely the tour may see some holes in future schedules as corporations trim down their title sponsorships.
I’m not convinced this is all that much of a bad thing for the tour.
Sure, some money may intitially be lost in the process, and the cities that benefit from having the tour in town will lose that week’s economic stimulus.
But fewer tournaments can only help the PGA Tour product become leaner and meaner. The tour’s top players schedules last year: Woods played 17 events, Mickelson 20, Anthony Kim 22, Steve Stricker 22, Furyk 23. But between the opening Sony Open in Hawaii and the culminating Tour Championship in 2009, there were 37 weeks with a PGA Tour event. That would be the equivalent of Tom Brady or Peyton Manning sitting out games versus their weakest six or seven opponents.
The NFL is a good example of making every week of its schedule count. There are 16 weeks to the NFL’s regular season, and ever week has paramount importance to the season’s outcome. What’s interesting is that even the potential for more cash has led the NFL to consider adding two regular season games, which would thus dilute the product a little and cause mainstream sports fans to lose interest. I suppose the only benefit would be that if the NFL started a few weeks earlier, we’d have fewer baseball highlights on ESPN SportsCenter.
So many golf tournaments week in and week out and with virtually no breaks between Sunday and their Pro-Am obligations Tuesday and Wednesday only leads to a lot of diluted fields. If suddenly the schedule started losing sponsors and dropped to 30 events or even 26, you’d have strong fields every weekend the boys were on TV. Even as someone who works in the golf industry and who’s job it is to follow the tour, I can’t get interested in more than about 20 tournaments every year.
The LPGA has an infamously smaller schedule (which they would love to expand upon, of course) but week in and week out, the best players are in the field. Lorena Ochoa played in 22 of 28 events last year. Christie Kerr and Ji-Yai Shin played in 25 events. It’s good that the tour’s best players are in the field every week, but its long layovers (two month-long hiatuses in 2010) between tournaments isn’t.
But if the PGA Tour does in fact does lose some sponsors and tournaments in the next few years, a compact schedule and smaller purse sizes would mean we see more stars like Phil Mickelson, Camilo Villegas and Rory McIlroy competing in a higher percentage of tournaments and making each week matter just a bit more - and fewer tournaments where Brian Gay is the man to beat (no offense Brian, but you’re not winning a major or WGC anytime soon).
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