Alan KatzThis Week at March 22, 2006

How long before the new Arnold Palmer
Invitational has a new corporate name?

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem held a press conference last week in which he officially announced the renaming of the Bay Hill Invitational to the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Congratulations to Arnold, who attended the press conference. He deserves that honor and more. But let's not fool ourselves into thinking this name change is anything but a sales tool.

It's just a lure for some big corporation that would like its name attached to the good name of Arnold Palmer. Next year or the year after, it'll be IBM Arnold Palmer Invitational, or the Exxon-Mobil Arnold Palmer Invitational.

During the press conference, one reporter asked an astute and embarrassing question.

"Commissioner," he began, "many of your tournaments for obvious reasons have corporate names. Years ago there were a lot of entertainers whose names were a major part of the tournament name, such as Sammy Davis and Jackie Gleason. Right now, are you extremely guarded in putting an individual's name on a tournament and reserving it? I think Bob Hope is the only one of the names that survived."

Finchem's reply was a study in indirectness: "Well, you never say never, but I think it's a fairly unusual circumstance that we would take the step that we're taking here with the Arnold Palmer Invitational. There was a period of time 25 years ago where there were some entertainers involved to draw attention; I think the sport has outgrown that particular phase."

Don't you love how Finchem says "the sport" when he really means "the business?" This is one smooth gentleman.

Then he continues: "This is a special situation - I guess I would characterize it that way - with a unique individual and a unique history and set of facts. I would not suggest that this would become a pattern."

Like heck it won't. If the PGA Tour can sell Arnie's name for huge dollars, it won't be long before Finchem's got Jack Nicklaus standing beside him at a press conference to announce a Jack Nicklaus Open, which would only be the prelude to the Goodyear Jack Nicklaus Open. Like everything with the PGA Tour, it's all about that corporate buck.

This kind of blatant insincerity is one reason why a lot of people are disillusioned with the PGA Tour. Everything is geared so that the five players who finish tied for 10th can divvy up $632,500, as they did at the Bay Hill Invitational. Next year, with Arnold's name out front, those five players will probably earn even more.

Good for them. But where's the drama in it for us?

As always, welcomes your comments.

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