Niche Tour Idea Raises Some Middle-Aged Eyebrows


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MIDDLE-AGED MAJOR WINNERS, UNITE: The idea for a new eight-event tour featuring mens major championship winners between the ages of 37 and 55 sounds like a crowd-pleaser. But there are some business hurdles to overcome first.
The Major Champions Tour, first reported in Golfweek, has the support of 1992 Masters winner Fred Couples and other players in pro golfs midlife set. More important than the notion that the relevant ages are a competitive no-mans land is the idea that people will pay to see storied competitors go at it in showcased tournaments, organizers believe.
Theyre probably right. But what about fields and television, two crucial elements in the picture?
Active PGA Tour players need a release from the Tour to play in non-Tour events during weeks in which they would be eligible for a regular Tour event. Such releases, while not unreasonably withheld, arent given lightly. The Tour usually gives releases to allow players to enter a reasonable number of overseas events (such as when Tiger Woods plays at the Deutschebank event in Germany, for example). Its not likely the Tour would give releases for domestic events that compete for attention with its own tournaments.
Would Tour players actually resign their memberships to be in this new venture? It seems unlikely ' but recall that it seems harder every year for some of the middle-agers to compete against the Tours younger stars, such as Woods, Charles Howell III and others.
And for at least two participants, Tour membership isnt a problem. Nick Faldo (six major wins) and Greg Norman (two major wins) let their PGA Tour memberships lapse by not playing the 15-event annual minimum.
Another problem: the PGA Tour is entitled to a rights fee whenever one of its members plays golf on television in a non-Tour event. Its not yet clear who would pay this, or even how much it would cost to satisfy the Tour. Again, from a competitive point of view, no amount may be satisfactory for the Tour, which works hard to position its product among the myriad choices available to television sports watchers.
This isnt the first time another tour has tried to create a derivative product. In the mid-1990s, Norman got behind the idea of organizing a world tour of elite players, but the idea never left the drawing board. The advent of the World Golf Championships some years later prompted some critics to accuse the Tour of using Normans idea, leading to allegedly chilly relations between Norman and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. The Tour has said often that the WGC idea was developed separately.
ACHOO!: When you see those Official [insert product name here] of the [insert sports league name here] designations, do you sometimes wonder why a sports league would need, say, an official moving van company? Still, league endorsements are a popular marketing tool.
The PGA Tour now has an official allergy medication. Aventis Pharmaceuticals, makers of the popular allergy medication Allegra, have taken on the Tour as a marketing partner for the 2002 season. Aventis has also secured the endorsement services of Steve Elkington, who, alas, has been something of a poster boy for allergy and sinus trouble at various times in his career.
An informal poll of PGA Tour players shows that many of them suffer from seasonal allergies, Aventis says.
By the bye, an Aventis doctor predicts a tough allergy season this spring because of the mild winter in many areas. (Just hold that sneeze during my backswing, OK?)