Tennis Anyone

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Apparently, Tim Finchem can't put enough zeroes behind that first number on the winner's check to make some of America's top names travel abroad. David Duval, Tom Lehman and Tour Champion Phil Mickelson aren't going to Valderrama for the World Golf Championship American Express Golf Championship. So, the tournament titles keep getting longer, the purses fatter and the yawns noticeably louder.
 
Tiger leads the list of headliners who will not be at the World Golf Championship Match Play Championship in Australia in January. The field there apparently is so depleted of the top 64 that there's a slim chance we'll see a quarterfinal match between Victor Regalado and Rod Curl.
 
What's going on? Guys passing up a chance for a million dollars? The answer's simple. When you're already fat and happy, you don't need to go back to the trough for another feeding. Why schlep 18 hours to Australia or eight hours to Spain when you don't need the cash? As a businessperson, would you endure the wear and tear of international travel if you knew you could make millions stateside and through endorsements? Sure, it'd be nice if Duval chased Tiger around the globe, hungry to bring the big cat down. But maybe he'd rather be snowboarding.
 
Commissioner Finchem would rather he tee it up, no doubt. Sponsors tend to get a little testy when the so-called World Golf Championship doesn't feature the best players in the world. These next two WGC offerings, with depleted rosters going at it in yet another exotic locale, will take golf uncomfortably closer to the realm of professional tennis.
 
Thank goodness for Tiger. Tennis has no Tiger and for the time being the Commissioner can saddle up his star and ride him into new frontiers to great fanfare. But if Tiger decides he doesn't want to gallop or when he scales back in 10 years, the problems will become more noticeable.
 
Odd, too, that the PGA Tour attempts to deliver all of this product to the four corners of the world yet can no longer deliver its best fields to long established American golfing strongholds like Houston or Greensboro, who have very little to show for their half century's worth of loyalty to professional golf.
 
What we're seeing with these World Golf Championships is a manufactured importance and the proof is in the ho-hum defections of so many top players. Saturated in money, saturated in special events that really aren't that special, golf swaggers into the new millennium.
 
The majors, oozing real tradition and real meaning, look better and better from this vantage point. And again, thank goodness for Tiger.