Pay for play is not an option

By Rex HoggardApril 25, 2012, 6:12 pm

To pay or not to pay. Not that the PGA Tour is even vaguely interested in incorporating appearance fees into its repertoire. On this Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., has been particularly clear.

For the record the circuit’s policy is: “Neither players nor other individuals acting on such players’ behalf shall solicit or accept any compensation, gratuity or other thing of value offered for the purpose of guaranteeing their appearance in any PGA Tour cosponsored tournament . . .”

But on a sleepy Wednesday equidistance between Masters Sunday and Players Thursday the philosophy, if not the practice, of appearance fees seems to be the subject du jour.

Perhaps it was Lee Westwood's cameo last week at the Indonesian Masters, an event which he won and was reportedly paid handsomely to attend. Or maybe it was a surprisingly weak field at the Texas Open. Whatever the impetuous, the pay-to-play concept has wedged itself back into the conversation this week.

It’s not often the Tour stakes out such a lofty spot in the moral high ground with immunity, but on this the suits seem to have it right.

For all those who cling to the notion that economic Darwinism should be allowed to run its course on Tour and that those who can afford to dole out six- and even seven-figure appearance fees should be allowed to do so might consider professional tennis as the ultimate cautionary tale.

“We don’t think it comports with the competitive integrity of the sport,” said Ty Votaw, the Tour’s executive vice president of communications and international affairs. “Look at what made it bad in tennis. The first time a player getting a fee misses a cut, legitimately just misses the cut, it will come into question.

“We don’t want there to be any perception that players are not giving it their best day in and day out.”

Besides, other than a handful of top players who would reap the financial windfall of appearance fees there are few in the game who support such a dramatic change in direction at the highest level.

Not most players, nor Tour administrators and certainly not many tournament directors.

Even a tournament director with a field that has historically struggled to attract top players seemed adverse to the idea when contacted this week.

“It’s a very slippery slope,” he said after a long pause. “You already have the haves and the have nots and you might widen the gap even more if we were to start allowing appearance fees.”

Even for tournaments with deep enough pockets to cut big checks for big names it is something of a “zero sum” game. With respect to the 287 or so other Tour players, for your average golf fan there are only 2 1/2 names that resonate – Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and, to a lesser but growing degree, Rory McIlroy.

The economic reality of that truth is those three aren’t going to be swayed by an appearance fee to show up in San Antonio or Madison, Miss., or any other Tour stop that shoulders on without the benefit of the game’s marquee.

That’s not to say, however, the system is perfect. Not long ago one tournament director suggested he would consider taking his cash to the European Tour – which allows appearance fees, like most of the world’s circuits – cutting his purse in half and using what remains to pay appearance fees.

In theory, said tournament director’s field would only improve, but at what cost? The loss of Tour status would be a hit and it seems unlikely the “big three” would suddenly add the event to their schedules.

There is also the elephant in the board room that suggests appearance fees, by any other name, are allowed on Tour. This week’s Zurich Classic, for example, has a number of “HelpPoint ambassadors” in the field, including world No. 2 Luke Donald, who played the New Orleans stop for the first time last year.

Whether Donald’s association with Zurich influenced his decision to play this week is debatable. Whether he violated the Tour’s policy on appearance fees is not.

“We feel like everybody complies with our regulations,” Votaw said flatly.

Perhaps, but the idea that there are “backdoor” appearance fees is a commonly held truth on Tour.

“It’s happened, I’ve seen it,” Robert Allenby said on Tuesday’s “Morning Drive.” “Where a bunch of the top players have gone to a special place to go play golf and then they go play the tournament. It doesn’t happen every week, but it has happened three or five times a year.”

But then the gray area between what is perceived and what is permitted is where the Tour has decided to draw the line, and for good reason. There may come a day when the circuit will need to consider appearance fees, but it’s not today.


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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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