Were they right? Were they wrong? Well, what would you have done if you already had several million dollars in the bank? You have enough money that you couldn't spend it all if you wanted to. Be honest now, could you really see the necessity of traveling that distance when the results mean absolutely nothing except to first-place Tiger Woods, who is trying to become a $10 million winner?
Phil Mickelson, David Duval, Davis Love III, Tom Lehman, Jim Furyk, Hal Sutton, Stewart Cink, John Huston, Paul Azinger, Notah Begay, Loren Roberts and Fred Couples opted out. So did Greg Norman. The field will be similarly reduced at other WGC events that aren't held in the United States.
Are the Americans wrong? Should they have saddled up regardless of where it is played?
Of course not. All of them have wives and children, with the exception of Duval, who has a sweetheart. The season is over now in the U.S. (as well as Europe.) The money is made, the money-ranking positions set, next year's tour cards are made many times over. A year's worth of play has been wrapped up, all obligations have been met and discharged, and those who don't want to travel shouldn't feel obligated.
If you are looking for someone to blame, don't get upset at Mickelson, Duval et al. Get upset at the PGA Tour commissioner, Tim Finchem, first of all. Throw in Tiger Woods if you would like, since purses have grown so astronomically. Blame a long season. Blame biology, since that's how children come into being. But don't blame the players.
This tournament pays $1 million to the winner. Now, first of all, forget what $1 million means to you and me. We're not professional athletes. Again, when you are worth $20 million and will make $2-3 million each year for the next 10-15 years, imagine how insignificant another million would be - that is, if you were fortunate enough to win. Last place is $25,000.
It would be different if there were only one of these a year. But there are three, for crying out loud. On top of that, there's the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup every other year. There's the British Open, and you haven't even heard the half of the yelping if you are an American and miss that one.
Incidentally, most of the criticism comes from the European Tour. What do you think is happening at the World Cup? Hint: the World Cup, which is played for the honor of your country, is being held in South America. If you guessed that many of the European stars aren't attending, give yourself 100 points and go to the head of the class.
Last month the Americans were roundly criticized for the team it sent to the Alfred Dunhill Cup in Scotland - Tom Lehman, Larry Mize and John Daly. The following week was another round of criticism for the Yanks when only Bob May showed up for the Cisco World Match Play. Every month it seems to be something different when top Americans don't play.
Of course, Finchem has forced tournaments to increase their purses so much that a person can play all his golf at home and make a very nice living. At the same time, Finchem has designed these World Golf Championship events and it's the turn of other countries to host. I'm sorry, but the cookie jar is full of money already. Some Americans are going to play, some aren't.
And the WGC events are played in the holiday seasons when everyone likes to be home. What's wrong with that? What's wrong with Mickelson winning $900,000 at the Tour Championship and then deciding to stay at home while the World Golf Championship event is being played in Valderrama this week? He has a wife and little one and he would like to be close to his own fireplace, thank you.
Now - if they are told they HAVE to be there, that is a different story. Each man must decide if this is the business he wants to be in, and then either follow the dictates of that business or change jobs. But as long as they have the option, as long as the Tour considers them independent contractors free to pick and choose where they want to work, then they certainly will do that.
Finchem figured all the stars would play the regular Tour schedule, then play the overseas events if he piled on enough money. He found out what a lot of tournament directors here in the U.S. have found out - money is only one of the factors which go into deciding where a player is going to play. It's not THE factor. Neither is the strength of field. Americans can play against the best in the world five times a year - the four majors plus the Players Championship. Most play in whatever WGC events are held here - usually one or two, which brings the number up to six or seven. Throw in a couple of trips to Europe for appearance fees and they have had plenty of top competition. And that's not even counting the Bay Hills and Memorials and Colonials.
So, it's not surprising that the top Americans have gotten their respective cans full. The WCG event in Spain will go on, and we presume there is going to be a very good winner. But please, these guys are people first. They have homes and they have families, and they want to join them when it gets cold outside.
Can you blame them?
Should the big-name players feel any sort of obligation to travel halfway around the world to play in WCG events?