Isnt 15 Enough


I read Kraig Kanns column in this space Friday, and it got me to wondering: how often did the Big Four play in the same tournament last year? And would they play more often together if the PGA Tour season were shortened, as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson suggested this week at the Ford Championship at Doral?
The Big Four is composed of Woods, Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els. I counted 15 times last year when at least three of them played together in a tournament. That isnt counting any of the postseason goobledygook ' remember, Tiger and Phil want to lop the schedule already.
I found that, every month between January (the Mercedes) and August for the WGC-NEC, the boys get together to do battle. They come together at the Tour Championship the first week in November. Thats at least once a month for nine months when three of the four are playing together. Fifteen times over nine months.
Is that enough? And would they play more together if the season were shortened?
I think not. Mickelson has three children and you arent going to get him away from home for more than the 15. Woods is a corporate conglomerate with plenty of outside business to look after, and hes hidden behind the giant stone walls of Isleworth the rest of the time. Els is busy flying the world ' he doesnt even live here. Singh already plays nearly 30 times a year ' he certainly isnt complaining about the season being too long.
Here is a look at the events when at least three of the four played last year:
January - The Mercedes;
February - Buick Invitational, WGC-Accenture Match Play;
March ' Bay Hill, the Players Championship;
April ' The Masters;
May ' Wachovia, EDS Byron Nelson;
June ' Memorial, Buick Classic, U.S. Open;
July ' British Open;
August ' PGA, WCG-NEC;
November ' Tour Championship.
Everyone played eight times ' the four majors, The Players, the EDS Byron Nelson, WGC-NEC and the Tour Championship. And, they have added a 16th tournament where three of the four will appear ' Doral this week, which brought them all together with the exception of Els.
The Buick Invitational, the Match Play and Wachovia had to carry on without Els, who was otherwise engaged on one side of the ocean or another. Mickelson wasnt around for Bay Hill or the Memorial ' he has to play Ford at Doral now and thats too much when you consider that Bay Hill is only two weeks after Doral. He used to make Bay Hill an annual stop, even won it once. And he plays all four tournaments in May, so when June rolls around, the odd one out is the Memorial.
Woods didnt play the Buick Classic, even though Buick is a sponsor of his. The Classic was the week before the U.S. Open, and everyone knows Tiger isnt going to play that weekend.
Singh, of course, played them all.
There are several reasons advanced for shortening the schedule, but Ive never heard of a reason being so the Big Four will play together more often. Woods and Mickelson, as Kann said, are not going to play more than 18-20 events. Els is still going to fly around the world. Singh is still going to play every one ' plus eight or 10 others.
Or have I missed something?
The only way you are going to get Woods or Mickelson to play more is to cut the total purse down to about one-tenth of what it is now ' fat chance of that happening. And you arent going to get Els to dedicate more time to the U.S., not when it isnt even his home.
In short, youll have to come up with a better reason for shortening the season. Otherwise, Im in favor of leaving it as it is.
Email your thoughts to George White