Of David Goliath and Business


The PGA Tour has responded to Fred Couples idea of a tour for major championship winners between the ages of 37 and 55. And between the lines, there are no surprises.
At a variety of points over the Tours history, concepts for limited-field, exhibition tours or series have been advanced by various individuals, said PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem in a statement Thursday night. In each case, although leading PGA Tour and Senior PGA Tour players have had the opportunity, they nevertheless opted not to support such proposals. They withheld their support largely because such proposals are not in the best interests of the game, or even the long-term interests of the players themselves.
Over the years, the growth and success of professional golf has been directly tied to the fundamental structure of the PGA Tour and Senior PGA Tour.
Translation: Its our show. Stay off the stage.
Before you get too deep into the David-and-Goliath thing, keep in mind what Finchems declared mission has been. He and his Tour strive to increase playing ' and therefore income ' opportunities for tour members. Finchem and his predecessors, Deane Beman and Joseph C. Dey, worked long and hard to build a top-drawer sports league from a group of players that broke away from the PGA of America in 1968. Finchem is not about to let anyone chip away at that.
And as one source told Tim Rosaforte of Golf World, Finchem would never let Fox, who is said to be sniffing around the TV aspect of the new tour, back-door its way into golf with PGA Tour players without paying the price CBS, ABC, NBC, USA Network, ESPN and The Golf Channel have paid to be part of the latest Tour television rights package.
As a sports commissioner, why then should Finchem be blamed for trying to squash this idea like a palmetto bug? Wouldnt the NHLs Gary Bettman or Major League Baseballs Bud Selig do the same? Hasnt the NFLs Paul Tagliabue actually done it?
While its tempting to root for the little guy, its wrong to assume that the underdog is always put upon, or even correct. But it is instructive to look at the idea from its creators point of view.
So far, the only creator to go public in a big way is Fred Couples, the perennially popular and reputedly laid-back PGA Tour star who charmed the world of golf when he won the 1992 Masters. Its unlikely that the easygoing Couples had any intention of ruffling the feathers of the tour that founded his feast, so to speak.
Word from those inside is that Couples asked friend and TV producer Terry Jastrow to Christmas dinner to discuss an idea that Couples and some other players had come up with during a rain delay at the Memorial Tournament. Wouldnt people pay to see 20 major winners with graying temples in big-money events? Supposedly Couples was so excited at Christmas dinner that people didnt recognize him.
The bare fact is, the tournaments probably would attract some attention. So Couples has asked Jastrow to check into the feasibility of the idea. Word is that Jastrow, the former chief of Jack Nicklaus Productions who is now out on his own in Los Angeles and armed with one of the best Rolodexes in the worlds of entertainment and sports, is many steps down the road with Fox, which has been coveting golf TV for some time.
Business hurdles remain, largely because of what Finchem has built. PGA Tour players ' and almost all the potential players are members, except for Greg Norman and Nick Faldo ' need the Tours permission to play in a non-Tour event in any week in which the member would be eligible for a Tour event. (There arent many weeks left uncovered.) And the Tour owns the rights to the images and likenesses of its members, and would charge a hefty fee for their use ' if it allowed it at all.
And getting back to the role of the commissioner: Why should he?
David and Goliath arent tour members. So even if it seems personal, dont be fooled: Its just business.