The PGA TOUR is entering a new era with the advent of the FedExCup, and a new television deal. Much time and effort have been spent in creating what promises to be a very exciting finish to the PGA TOUR Season. The PGA TOUR is now much more like the other major sports with a playoff system that culminates in a definitive end to the season. I believe the FedExCup will be very successful but will cause the players to think hard about their playing schedules.
OK, so the end of the PGA TOUR schedule has been reconstructed and is now set but what about the start? In baseball, other than the playoffs, the most important day is Opening Day. And for the PGA TOUR, it needs to open its year with that kind of a bang. The top players need to play not only at the end of the season but at the beginning. The Sony Open in Hawaii field is highly dependent on the Mercedes-Benz Championship the week prior and right now the Mercedes winners-only format is increasingly becoming too restrictive. Too many of the top players are missing. Its time to consider a qualifying standard adjustment for the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
Over the past couple of years, for a variety of reasons, some to the games top players, even though they had won the year before, have not been in the Mercedes field. One of the issues is that Tiger Woods tournament, the Target World Challenge, doesnt finish until the middle of December and the Mercedes-Benz Championship begins only two weeks later. That is a very short holiday break for the players in Tigers field and very little time to prepare for the Mercedes. I think the proximity of these two dates needs to be re-thought. Irrespective of that, I think that adding a few players to the Mercedes field would be a good insurance policy in case some players choose not to come.
There are a number of repercussions when the top players, who have qualified to play, opt not to come to the season-opening event. There is less buzz for the event and for the PGA TOUR. There is less media coverage, lower attendance and subsequently less money for local charities and overall lower TV ratings.
Here are a couple of options to consider. What if the one-year eligibility right now for the Mercedes-Benz Championship was adjusted to reflect the same benefit as winning any PGA TOUR event, which is two years, or in the case of the Players Championship as much as five years; that would add 15-20 players a year into the field. If thats too many perhaps you could allow the past Mercedes winners into the field; that would have allowed Ernie Els or Sergio Garcia to be eligible for this past Mercedes-Benz Championship.
I certainly cant say I have the right answers but there needs to be an answer.
Thats MY VIEW!
Editors Note: Mark Rolfing, a Maui resident, is one of the leading forces in sports event marketing and production in Hawaii. As NBC Sports award-winning golf commentator, Rolfing continues to cover top golf events such as the prestigious Ryder Cup, The Players Championship and The U.S Open. Rolfing also hosts Golf Hawaii on The Golf Channel. Golf Hawaii, now in its twelfth season is one of the longest running sports shows in the nation.