Attitude of Gratitude

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SAN DIEGO ' It was the live version of the five-minute digital pep talk PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem sent out during golfs short, sleepy off-season. CBS Sports Lance Barrow spoke for about an hour and a tent filled nearly to capacity listened.
 
Tuesdays mandatory players meeting at Torrey Pines covered familiar ground ' the economy, sponsors and the media ' but it put an end to the notion that some players still dont get it. The Tour may be prepared to weather the current economic slide and flush circuit coffers may help ease all that financial anxiety, but it doesnt take a Wall Street type to read the economic tea leaves. Car manufacturers and financial institutions are the backbone of the Tours business model, the same institutions that have been hit so hard by the current downturn.
 
The Cliffs Notes version of Tuesdays meeting were these: forget the long-term contracts with television and many sponsors. Consider 2009 a contract year which means that these guys are not only good, as the Tour tag line says, but they are good corporate partners.
 
(Finchem) just doesnt want us to do anything stupid, said one player. Go the extra yard, make sure the sponsors feel appreciated. Make sure the fans have a good time.
 
Serious times. Serious messages.
 
Barrow may have been the keynote speaker, but Finchem could have plucked Ted Purdy out of the crowd had he wanted a ready-made Exhibit A.
 
Purdy is a notorious nice guy, as approachable and engaging as any on Tour, but he went off the extra mile charts at last weeks FBR Open. Purdy regained full status this year via Q-School, but he was ranked low in that category and needed a sponsor exemption to play his hometown event. Prior to the tournament, Purdy had the FBR logo put on his shirt, not as a condition of the exemption but as a simple thank you.
 
Purdy began the practice last year. For $20 to his local seamstress he showed the folks at the Wachovia Championship and Sony and FBR opens that the insular athlete cloak doesnt fit every make and model
 
Its easy to do, Purdy smiled in his signature sheepish way. Being grateful is always important.
 
If Tuesdays meeting needed a face, welcome Purdys expressive mug.
 
Perhaps the Tours wagon circling seems a bit preemptive given the overall state of the Tour. Most sponsors are signed to multiple year deals. Yet, without the aid of a financial looking glass, the timetable for recovery is unknown. To Finchem, that financial uncertainty means he and his players must start selling the Tour product now.
 
At the grass roots level, that means more engagement during sponsor events, towards the media and during pro-ams.
 
The way the economy is going, that reflects on the Tour, Pat Perez said. I love pro-ams. These guys have paid a lot of money to play, they want to have a good time, they want to leave and tell everyone they had a great day. Thats our job.
 
A component of Finchems off-season video was to ask players to consider playing events they historically have not, a concept that has rekindled the one-in-four debate. There has been little traction for the potential rule, which would require players play every event at least once every four years, but drastic times require drastic measures.
 
I would support a one-in-four rule, said Purdy, a member of the Tours 15-member Players Advisory Council. We need Tiger and we need Phil and the big names. The sponsors need them, because they are putting up the big bucks. It would be great for the Tour. Any sponsor who is entering into a three or four year deal with the Tour, he knows hes going to get Tiger at least once. It would help negotiations in the future.
 
The concept, however, has not been embraced by the Tours top players and some who cling to the circuits independent contractor ways. Truth is it is hard to criticize Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for not playing more considering how successful they have been with their current schedule.
 
I think there are things we can do to show appreciation to our sponsors and really our partners, Mickelson said. I dont know how (the one-in-four rule) would really affect anything. Pretty much everyone on Tour plays 18 to 20. Even Tiger averages over 18 events a year.
 
To saddle Woods and Mickelson with the financial well-being of the entire Tour is misplaced and whiffs of micro-management. Its not fair to make it all about Tiger because hes earned his status, Purdy concedes.
 
Perhaps, but Woods is the engine that drives the Buick, to use a timely metaphor. Asking Woods to add a Turning Stone or Zurich to his schedule is not the answer. But its not too much to ask any card-carrying member to spend some extra time with sponsors or a pro-am partner.
 
Golf, be the market bear or bullish, should be an easier sell than say the NBA or MLB. The Tours athletes are more accessible, the image much more corporate friendly and its commitment to charities unique among all professional products. The task for those on the front line is to hammer that point, now more so than ever.
 
You need an attitude of gratitude. Its the way to live life, Purdy said.
 
Barrow couldnt have said it any better.
 

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