How will the economy affect the tours

By Rex HoggardJanuary 8, 2009, 5:00 pm
Just after breakfast on Sept. 23, 2008, President George W. Bush dispatched Vice President Dick Cheney to Capitol Hill in an attempt to sell Congress on the merits of the administrations $700 billion mortgage bailout fund. At nearly the same time PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was addressing a group of reporters at the circuits season-ending Tour Championship on the general health of the circuit.
 
The executives delivered vastly different messages.
 
Not that the Tour is immune to the financial malaise that has gripped the global economy. Its just that if youre looking for a buy sport during these difficult times, the Tour still has an IBM quality to it.
 
One of the things that happens in every recession I've been involved in is companies work harder at evaluating their investment, said Finchem, who served as an economist during the unsteady days of former President Jimmy Carters Administration.
 
That usually works to our benefit, because most companies we deal with are involved in multiple sports. On the value proposition we always pencil out very, very good. Every recession we've had we've come out stronger on the back end.
 
If Finchems bullishness seems misplaced, consider that while other sports scramble to shore up their financial positions, the Tour will feature the same number of FedEx Cup events in 2009 as it did in 08. There will be modest purse increases this year and more than half of the tournament title-sponsor agreements run through 2012, when the contracts with CBS and NBC end. The Tours contract with Golf Channel runs through 2022.
 
All this does not mean, however, the Tour is recession-proof.
 
It seems certain Finchem & Co. will have to diversify the circuits sponsorship portfolio to adjust for the overall financial instability. Financial institution and auto manufactures have historically accounted for a large portion of the circuits sponsorship model. These are the same institutions that have been the hardest hit by the current downturn.
 
Of the Tours 41 FedEx Cup events in 2008, 15 were either sponsored or presented by financial institutions. Five tournaments in 2008 were sponsored by auto manufacturers.
 
Any financial firm is backing off on any type of hospitality, said Gerald Goodman, the tournament director of the Transitions Championship near Tampa, Fla. They are examining every dime they are spending now and every tournament will feel that.
 
Sales of corporate tents at the Transitions are off between 20 percent and 50 percent, Goodman said, and The Sports Business Journal recently reported that spending on hospitality is off at 10 of the 14 first-quarter events this year.
 
It feels like the whole world has been cut by 30 percent, said Mark Brazil, the tournament director of the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C.
 
The general consensus is that the Tour will be dotted with fewer corporate hospitality tents and skyboxes while the economic landscape shifts. Its a reality that has forced organizers to become more creative if they are going to maintain the same level of amenities that players and fans have become accustomed to as well as the charitable contributions that are a cornerstone of the Tours mission.
 
You dont want your players and fans and the media showing up and saying, They have really cut here, Brazil said.
 
Goodman, whose event is in the first year of a four-year sponsorship agreement with Transitions, has cut ticket prices from around $55 to $45 for advanced-purchased daily packages to a flat rate of $40.
 
But the biggest hit individual tournaments are facing is the sale of corporate hospitality tents, an area that has historically been carried by the financial sector. As a result Brazil is marketing these big ticket items ' which include corporate chalets that can cost as much as $40,000 for the week ' to multiple clients instead of a single sponsor.
 
I would be surprised if any event went up in pricing, Brazil said. There has to be deals cut.
 
Many tournaments also must fill the courtesy car void that was left when Buick ' one of the Tours largest suppliers of courtesy cars - announced last year it would be scaling back on its commitment. Tournaments like the Transitions and John Deere Classic were left scrambling for replacement vehicles.
 
We figured it would cost between $80,000 and $100,000 to rent a fleet of vehicles, said John Deere tournament director Clair Peterson. That is not an insignificant amount of money, but who in the car industry are you going to go to?
 
Peterson filled the courtesy car void by pooling the resources of ten regional Chevy dealers, but other tournament directors are still searching.
 
Yet amid the economic handwringing that has become something of a national pastime, those on the Tours financial frontline are buoyed by a cautious optimism.
 
The Tour is in a much better spot than a lot of other sports, said Brazil, whose agreement with Wyndham runs through 2010. The bottom line is companies still need to advertise. They still need to get in front of people and were a very good way to accomplish that.
 

 

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    Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

    John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

    The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

    That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

    He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.