What if They Gave a Million and No One Came


Which big tournament do we have this week? The Automotive Open? The Insurable Insurance Invitational? The Unbelievably Cool Billion-Dollar Classic?
Oh - it's Australia's turn . let's see, don't tell me - it's here on the tip of my tongue. Yeah, it's a World Golf Championship. The Accenture World Match Play Championship - did I get it right?
That is the biggie this month. The season has become so saturated with big-money events that many of the guys passed on this one. There'll be another Golly-Gee-Whiz Open right around the corner if you missed this one, tournaments with bushels of money to be given away. If you are too tired, too complacent to play in one, just wait to play for the month that coincides with your biorhythms. Any ol' month will suffice to whip out the driver and scuff a few.
Golf has become woefully saturated with big-money tournaments. Let's see now - there are the four majors. There's the Players Championship. There's the Sun City South Africa thing. Now we've got these three World Golf Championships. That doesn't account for the Tour Championship, the Alfred Dunhill Cup in Scotland, the Whatzits Match Play in England. And it doesn't account for the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, both of which Americans are sternly expected to attend. So far there have been few complaints, although the Presidents Cup in South Africa will be the biggest test yet.
But that just about does it for 11 months of the year. Promoters grudgingly accept the fact that the gentlemen are going to stay home in December, or if they play it will be only to get out and giggle a little.
Money? Who needs all this money? The PGA Tour alone has 20 tournaments that pay out at least $4 million in prizes. A man can do quite nicely just playing those bazillion-dollar events. And that doesn't even include the approximately $5 million the top golfers can make yearly in endorsements.
The reason for all this money that has come showering down is T-I-G-E-R W-O-O-D-S. Say it slowly, students. Every promoter, every tournament director hopes his millions will catch Woods' attention. But it's gotten to the point that a million doesn't mean much anymore. Woods gets $20 million a year in endorsements before he ever puts a peg in the soil, and face it - he can't spend much more than a million or two if he goes shopping every day of the year. Pile up the appearance money, another $5 million or so, and you can see that the $10 million he made in tournaments last year was just so much funny money.
The Accenture Match Play just doesn't mean that much to the world's best. Ernie Els can say all he wants about these players owing it to the world to come play everywhere, but guys like Tiger go where and when they want. They go many times when there is an appearance fee of a million dollars. Woods plays the biggies more than most of the top stars, but he remains pretty selective. Yes, he played around the world this year, but it was on his terms and on the tournament's dime. Very seldom did he jump out and play for the joy of competition.
But wait a minute - why should he? Why should anyone expect the world's best 10 or 12 players to come running, just because there is another $5 million pot in some part of the globe? They've got exactly what you would expect - $5 million to pay the top 100, most of whom still look at a million as a million.