Love Keep Out Appearance Fees

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2005 Honda ClassicPALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Last weekend's dramatic duel between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson is a tough act to follow, and the Honda Classic won't even try.
 
For starters, the tournament lacks the cast. Woods edged Mickelson at the Ford Championship at Doral, but both are sitting out this week's PGA Tour event. Doral attracted 11 of the world's 12 top-ranked players, but the Honda includes only one among the top six ' No. 2 Vijay Singh.
 
The tour has long debated how to beef up weak fields, and one recurring proposal ' appearance money ' became a topic again when four top players, all IMG clients, took part in a corporate outing in Miami last week and stayed for Doral three days later.
 
PGA Tour policy board member Davis Love III said players will head off a push by IMG for more such outings.
 
'That's against the tour's policies that have been around a long time,' Love said Wednesday. 'The players I've talked to are very upset about it because one, they don't want it to happen; and two, they didn't like the way it did happen.'
 
The Ford Motor Co. outing in Miami involved Singh, fifth-ranked Retief Goosen, No. 6 Sergio Garcia and No. 8 Padraig Harrington. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel cited a tournament source as saying the fee for each player was as high as $150,000.
 
Love said the players weren't at fault. But he said IMG is overstepping its bounds by offering to organize more corporate outings at tournament sites to ensure commitments by top players.
 
'Our rules are very clear, and they are just going to be restated to all of the parties,' Love said. 'It won't happen again. There are going to be some hands slapped and some guys with some bad feelings about it.'
 
Mark Steinberg, IMG's managing director of golf, didn't return phone calls seeking comment. The issue will be high on the agenda when tournament sponsors gather for their annual meeting later this month at The Players Championship.
 
Cliff Danley, executive director of the Honda Classic, said appearance money would create competition between sponsors for top players and could mean lower purses.
 
'It's not good for the sport,' Danley said. 'It's a slippery slope if you've got to keep enticing guys to play.'
 
Tour veteran Fred Couples said he had mixed feelings about the issue. The strong field at Doral paid off with high TV ratings, he said, and golf needs more such events.
 
'I love Cliff Danley to death, but this isn't going to be as great a tournament as Doral,' Couples said. 'People want to see the best players. If it came down to paying six guys to come, I just don't know why that would be wrong.'
 
Love said appearance fees hurt tennis by raising doubts about the motivation of players receiving the guaranteed money. Golf shouldn't repeat the mistake, he said.
 
'You don't want to restrict a player's income,' he said. 'But you also don't want there to be any appearance of something funny going on to try to get guys to play in tournaments. A guy misses the cut and you say, `All he came for is his appearance money.'
 
'Doral was the best event of the year, maybe one of the best in the last five. And what we're talking about today is four guys playing golf with a bunch of car dealers. That's the problem.'
 
There should already be plenty of financial incentive at the Honda, which has the same $5.5 million purse as Doral, including $990,000 to the winner. But many top players traditionally take the week off before completing the Florida swing at the Bay Hill Invitational and The Players Championship.
 
Missing along with Woods and Mickelson will be top-10 players Goosen, Garcia, Ernie Els, Adam Scott and Stewart Cink. Among those joining Singh and the No. 12-ranked Love in the field will be Harrington and No. 7 David Toms.
 
Former champions entered include Couples, Mark O'Meara, Justin Leonard, Dudley Hart, Jesper Parnevik, Mark Calcavecchia and Todd Hamilton, who used his Honda title last year as a springboard to win the British Open. Also entered are six-time major championship winner Nick Faldo and two-time Masters winner Bernhard Langer.
 
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