Two tournaments in one week. One for the upper class, the other for the others.
Is it good or bad for the game? Does it create more interest or muddle it?
Well, that depends on who you ask. Pose those questions to one of the top-ranked players in the world and theyll tell you one thing. Do the same to someone more middle of the road and the answer youll receive will likely be the polar opposite.
While the upcoming $6 million World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship will garner the spotlight, the $3 million Chrysler Classic of Tucson will be played in its shadow.
For years, a Stateside event has been held opposite the British Open. Two years ago, Tucson was contested the same week as the winners-only Mercedes Championships. The Tour Championship has gone head-to-head with a tournament on offer to those outside the top 30 on the money list. And those who dont make the Ryder Cup usually have a place to play.
But since the inception of the World Golf Championship events in 1999, the Tour schedule has become more convoluted.
In addition to the Match Play and Tucson tandem, the Reno-Tahoe Open is the same week as the WGC-NEC Invitational (which includes Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team members, the top-50-ranked players and winners of selected tournaments). You also have the Southern Farm Bureau adjacent to the American Express Championship (which includes the top-50-ranked players and leaders for various tour money lists).
Add in the British and B.C. Opens combination, and that makes four double-event weeks this season.
Tim (Finchem, PGA Tour commissioner)s job is to give the players as many opportunities to play as they can, said Jeff Sluman, who won The B.C. Open in 2001 when he didnt qualify for the British Open.
The British, how many guys go over there from our tour ' 35, 40? Theres definitely the need for an event in the U.S.
Last year, there were six times when two events were contested in the same week. Of those six, four produced first-time tour winners. The two exceptions were Loren Roberts, who won the Texas Open the week of the Ryder Cup, and K.J. Choi, who won the Tampa Bay Classic the same week as the American Express. Choi had won in New Orleans earlier in the year, but still wasnt eligible to compete in Ireland.
Too many people on the PGA Tour, so two events no problem, Choi said.
Choi is one of the players who has perspective from both ends of the table. Hes eaten the scraps and will now feed from the feast. He will compete in his second-ever WGC event at the Match Play. And at 33rd in the world ranking, hes safe to qualify for the two remaining individual events, which also offer a $1,080,000 first-place prize.
But there are others who have played only in the greener pasture, such as the world No. 1.
Tiger Woods has five wins in 10 starts in the individual WGC events, and has another two victories in the two-man team World Cup.
Hes played in every WGC event with the exception of two. He didnt go to Australia for the 2001 Match Play and skipped out on last years World Cup.
Ive never been a big fan of that, Woods said of dual tournaments. I dont think it rewards the guys who are playing the best.
If you go out next week and lose in the first round and some guy plays well in another event, youre going to get jumped on the money list.
Many in the Tours upper crust feel the lesser event saps its big brother. Some have said winning such a tournament doesnt warrant a two-year exemption. And why should a victory in the B.C. Open be worth more than a second-place finish at the British?
Aaron Baddeley is not among that populace. Having lost in a playoff to Ernie Els in the Sony Open and having tied for 28th at Riviera, hes certainly not someone you would want to draw in the Match Play.
But ranked 98th, hes not eligible to compete in his first-ever WGC event, and will continue his rookie campaign in Tucson.
Youve got the top 60 guys in the world and there might be only 30 of those guys on the U.S. tour, so youve still got all the other guys trying to make a living, he said.
Forty-six of the 64 currently in the Match Play field are full-time PGA Tour members.
Kevin Sutherland is the defending champion. He also finished runner-up in Tucson when it was played against the Mercedes in 2001.
He said he doesnt like to see two tournaments contested the same week, but only because he thinks each event deserves its own time in the sun.
Its a tough call. I love Tucson. I just wish they could have their own week, he said. Theyre getting nothing ' none of the top players are there, and theres (little) coverage.
But if given the choice of having a tournament the same week as another or not having one at all, Im glad they still play.
Tour officials say they have no plans of disposing of any of the complementary events, leaving the higher-ranked players unhappy with the situation.
But as Sluman points out, Theres more than just 50 guys out here on tour.