My calendar says that the World Golf Championship-NEC was six weeks ago. That was the last time you saw the standouts in action together. Since that time, the Air Canada, the Bell Canadian Open, SEI Pennsylvania Classic, Westin Texas Open, Buick Challenge and Michelob Championship have been played. A few more of the big names will play this week in the Las Vegas Invitational, but the fact that amateurs will be playing with the pros turn off some of the top gentlemen. Then there is the National Car Rental Golf Classic. That's eight weeks - two months - without the powers-that-be teeing it up in unison.
They're waiting, of course, for the season that follows 'the season.' The Tour Championship is played the first week in November, the final event on the PGA Tour's calendar. A number of the lads are supposed to be going to the WGC-American Express Championship in Australia, but word is that several are not going. Then comes the rash of tournaments made for television, events that are a good deal more relaxed, a chance to pay back some debts. Wendy's Three-Tour Challenge, Shark Shootout, the Skins Game, Williams World Challenge, the Office Depot Father-Son Challenge, the Team Match Play Challenge . let's see, what have I missed?
The 'Fall Finish' obviously hasn't been quite as successful as the trumped-up program that begins the season - the 'West Coast Swing.' Both contain a stipend for the winner, but tell a man who has just won two million that you have a little something extra for the winner of that so-called 'Fall Finish' and be prepared to stifle yawns all around the room. Professional golfers just don't plan their schedules around money - not when they have just about everything they want from the 25 or 30 times they DO play.
That's the danger Commissioner Tim Finchem faces, incidentally. True, he has gotten the purses high enough that there is plenty of money to go around - a definite objective of his when he took office. But at the same time, he has made it much easier to lay out of events that the gents don't find particularly interesting. When you already have money spilling out of both pants pockets and the wallet, it is easy to forego half the schedule.
By the way, don't you envy these gentlemen? They only play about 30 events a year. That means they have approximately three months of down time. I know, I know - football and baseball players have five months off. But the average wage-earner gets at most four weeks off, and many get off only off two weeks. If it were golf, that would mean 50 events a year. I wish you would try to find someone who plays 50 weeks a year.
But, how can you criticize these guys? They are playing exactly by the rules. They must play 15 tournaments a year and everyone does at least that much. Maybe the problem - if there is a problem - is that there are too many tournaments. If the Tour wants the top players to play in a greater percentage of events, maybe the answer is to cut down on the number of events.
These are 'independent contractors,' don't forget. None of the golfers are employed by the PGA Tour. If someone doesn't like the Las Vegas tournament, for example, because he thinks he has to play with too many drunks, then so be it - he doesn't play. That is what the PGA Tour has decreed. And there isn't enough money on this planet to make it otherwise.
The top guns will not play the SEI Pennsylvania Classic, I don't care how much money you put on the table. It is simply in the wrong part of the schedule, after the PGA Championship and the NEC. The top 'independent contractors' are not going to play. Come showers of dimes or floods of dollars or this so-called 'Fall Finish,' they are not going to do it.