The Price of Passing Out Millions

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Try as I might, Im finding it awfully hard to get in a righteous snit about the quartet who have decided to pass on this weeks Mercedes Championships.
 
Not that Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen or Padraig Harrington have distinguished themselves in any way by skipping an event created especially for PGA Tour winners of the previous season. But rather, there is something evil deep within me which chuckles slightly over the tours independent contractor designation of the men who play it. Now the tour is being forced to suffer the consequences of that designation.
 
Woods, I would guess, deserves a pass because he has always supported the tournament in the past. Having said that, I still have to wonder about his off-season schedule which saw him tied up the better part of six weeks, leaving him to pick this certain week to finally take time off. He, of course, is determined to remain a very private person, meaning that only he knows why he chose to go to China, to Japan, to Hawaii and to California. This, after he had just criticized the tour having too long a season.
 
Sounds strange, doesnt it? But be assured that Tiger has a good reason for saying such things. It turns out, he had a good reason for changing his swing after breakout seasons in 1999 and 2000, when he won 17 times. We didnt know at the time of the swing change, sometime around 2003-04, that he felt the change was necessary because of a knee injury.
 
But Tiger finally fessed up after a lot of people, myself included, had wondered about the wisdom of making the move after such a period of exceptional play. So, Ive determined to butt out after the curious the seasons too long campaign of 2005, followed by his extensive playing tour after the season ended. Woods, we must conclude, had his reasons.
 
'I just need some time away from the game,' Woods said on his website about his absence from Kapulua this week. 'As much as I enjoy going to Kapalua resort, its been a long season and I have played a lot of golf. I need a break.'
 
Goosen and Harrington have at least some modicum of an excuse ' they both live in another country, both play largely on the European Tour, and when you begin talking about locales east of the Atlantic Ocean where each resides (Harrington in Ireland, Goosen has homes in Britain and South Africa), thats quite a long flight to get to Hawaii.
 
That leaves Mickelson.
 
Mickelson doesnt have an excuse, nor does he particularly need one. He hasnt played in the event since 2001, and it isnt likely that he will play in it anytime soon. But he doesnt play in the Tour Championship, either.
 
Now, Mickelson has three young children and its most admirable that he spends three months down time with them each year. But, am I missing something? Is there some underlying reason that he doesnt go to Kapulua? Honk if you know the answer.
 
Mark Calcavecchia is a friend of both Woods and Mickelson. He is at the Mercedes this year for the first time since 2002, having won the Bell Canadian Open in 2005. And he is appreciative of the fact that the field is missing the Fab Four ' hey, theres a much greater chance of him finishing somewhere in the top 10 with them not playing.
 
I text-messaged Tiger and said, No Hawaii for you, more cash for me, something like that, Calc said with a grin.
 
But theres no mistaking what his feelings are. I think they should be here, he said.
 
It's bad for the tournament. Good for me, bad for the tournament. I don't have to beat Tiger, Phil, Retief or Padraig. That's a bonus factor. If I'm looking to win this tournament, there's three or four guys that could easily win it.
 
Obviously, the tour has shot itself in the foot by arranging for a sheiks payout throughout the season. What it has done is to allow dozens of players ' players who are going to make a couple mil anyway ' to decide that they really dont need to go to a tournament simply because it wants to throw huge sums of money at them. The Mercedes pitches in excess of $1 million at the winner, and all 28 players in the field get a very nice paycheck ' last year the last-place finisher still got $65,000. That, of course, is tip money to most of the gents who have qualified to play in the event this week.
 
Obviously money's not an issue, said Calc. They don't need the money, which is nice to be in that position. You know, it's the first week of the year. Tiger played all those other tournaments. You know, they need the break; Phil needs a break, whatever.
 
That's OK. It's just golf, you know. It's not a marathon. It's not the Ironman out here, swim 26 miles or something. It's just golf. Take the next month off, you know.
 
I think they should be here. That's all I got to say.
 
And it is partially what this represents, that it is a tournament of champions only, that Calcavecchia feels this is one tournament that should be mandatory.
 
This is winners only, he said. You win tournaments, this should be, I think, part of the reason why you should be here - to represent that tournament you won, or tournaments, you know, six of them or whatever he (Woods) won. Yeah, I agree.
 
And there is much truth to that. But still, lets face it ' Tim Finchem has squeezed tournaments for every last dime, and that's the reason that these four guys could afford to pass up the Mercedes. Tiger won in excess to $10 million last year, and that is a mere pittance of the reported $90 million that he earned. Mickelson won $5.7 million before he shut it down the end of October.
 
And they are wholly within their right, thanks to being labeled independent contactors, to play whenever and wherever they please - as long as they play their 15 required events to keep their card. So the tour should not be disturbed if they are merely exercising their rights. The tour made this incredibly comfortably bed and lined it with millions of dollars. Mickelson, Woods, Goosen and Harrington are simply playing by the rules as laid down by T. Finchem et al.
 
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