Pay for play is not an option

By Rex HoggardApril 25, 2012, 6:12 pm

To pay or not to pay. Not that the PGA Tour is even vaguely interested in incorporating appearance fees into its repertoire. On this Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., has been particularly clear.

For the record the circuit’s policy is: “Neither players nor other individuals acting on such players’ behalf shall solicit or accept any compensation, gratuity or other thing of value offered for the purpose of guaranteeing their appearance in any PGA Tour cosponsored tournament . . .”

But on a sleepy Wednesday equidistance between Masters Sunday and Players Thursday the philosophy, if not the practice, of appearance fees seems to be the subject du jour.

Perhaps it was Lee Westwood's cameo last week at the Indonesian Masters, an event which he won and was reportedly paid handsomely to attend. Or maybe it was a surprisingly weak field at the Texas Open. Whatever the impetuous, the pay-to-play concept has wedged itself back into the conversation this week.

It’s not often the Tour stakes out such a lofty spot in the moral high ground with immunity, but on this the suits seem to have it right.

For all those who cling to the notion that economic Darwinism should be allowed to run its course on Tour and that those who can afford to dole out six- and even seven-figure appearance fees should be allowed to do so might consider professional tennis as the ultimate cautionary tale.

“We don’t think it comports with the competitive integrity of the sport,” said Ty Votaw, the Tour’s executive vice president of communications and international affairs. “Look at what made it bad in tennis. The first time a player getting a fee misses a cut, legitimately just misses the cut, it will come into question.

“We don’t want there to be any perception that players are not giving it their best day in and day out.”

Besides, other than a handful of top players who would reap the financial windfall of appearance fees there are few in the game who support such a dramatic change in direction at the highest level.

Not most players, nor Tour administrators and certainly not many tournament directors.

Even a tournament director with a field that has historically struggled to attract top players seemed adverse to the idea when contacted this week.

“It’s a very slippery slope,” he said after a long pause. “You already have the haves and the have nots and you might widen the gap even more if we were to start allowing appearance fees.”

Even for tournaments with deep enough pockets to cut big checks for big names it is something of a “zero sum” game. With respect to the 287 or so other Tour players, for your average golf fan there are only 2 1/2 names that resonate – Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and, to a lesser but growing degree, Rory McIlroy.

The economic reality of that truth is those three aren’t going to be swayed by an appearance fee to show up in San Antonio or Madison, Miss., or any other Tour stop that shoulders on without the benefit of the game’s marquee.

That’s not to say, however, the system is perfect. Not long ago one tournament director suggested he would consider taking his cash to the European Tour – which allows appearance fees, like most of the world’s circuits – cutting his purse in half and using what remains to pay appearance fees.

In theory, said tournament director’s field would only improve, but at what cost? The loss of Tour status would be a hit and it seems unlikely the “big three” would suddenly add the event to their schedules.

There is also the elephant in the board room that suggests appearance fees, by any other name, are allowed on Tour. This week’s Zurich Classic, for example, has a number of “HelpPoint ambassadors” in the field, including world No. 2 Luke Donald, who played the New Orleans stop for the first time last year.

Whether Donald’s association with Zurich influenced his decision to play this week is debatable. Whether he violated the Tour’s policy on appearance fees is not.

“We feel like everybody complies with our regulations,” Votaw said flatly.

Perhaps, but the idea that there are “backdoor” appearance fees is a commonly held truth on Tour.

“It’s happened, I’ve seen it,” Robert Allenby said on Tuesday’s “Morning Drive.” “Where a bunch of the top players have gone to a special place to go play golf and then they go play the tournament. It doesn’t happen every week, but it has happened three or five times a year.”

But then the gray area between what is perceived and what is permitted is where the Tour has decided to draw the line, and for good reason. There may come a day when the circuit will need to consider appearance fees, but it’s not today.

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Group standings at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 7:00 pm

Here are the group standings for pool play at the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas. The player with the most points in each pool advanced to Saturday's Round of 16 in Austin, Texas. Click here for scoring and click here for the bracket.

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
(1) D. Johnson (2) J. Thomas: 1-0-0 (3) J. Rahm (4) J. Spieth
(32) K. Kisner (21) F. Molinari: 1-0-0 (28) K. Aphibarnrat (19) P. Reed
(38) A. Hadwin
(48) P. Kizzire: 0-1-0 (43) C. Reavie (34) H. Li
(52) B. Wiesberger
(60) L. List: 0-1-0 (63) K. Bradley (49) C. Schwartzel
Group 5 Group 6 Group 7 Group 8
(5) H. Matsuyama (6) R. McIlroy (7) S. Garcia (8) J. Day
(30) P. Cantlay
(18) B. Harman (20) X. Schauffele (25) L. Oosthuizen
(46) C. Smith (44) J. Vegas (41) D. Frittelli (42) J. Dufner
(53) Y. Miyazato (51) P. Uihlein (62) S. Sharma (56) J. Hahn
Group 9 Group 10 Group 11 Group 12
(9) T. Fleetwood (10) P. Casey (11) M. Leishman (12) T. Hatton: 1-0-0
(26) D. Berger (31) M. Fitzpatrick (23) B. Grace (22) C. Hoffman
(33) K. Chappell (45) K. Stanley (35) B. Watson (36) B. Steele
(58) I. Poulter (51) R. Henley (64) J. Suri (55) A. Levy: 0-1-0
Group 13 Group 14 Group 15 Group 16
(13) A. Noren (14) P. Mickelson (15) P. Perez: 0-1-0 (16) M. Kuchar
(29) T. Finau (17) R. Cabrera Bello (24) G. Woodland: 0-1-0 (27) R. Fisher
(39) T. Pieters (40) S. Kodaira (37) W. Simpson: 0-1-0 (47) Y. Ikeda
(61) K. Na (59) C. Howell III (50) S.W. Kim: 0-1-0 (54) Z. Johnson
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Match-by-match: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 1

By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 6:32 pm

Here is how things played out on Day 1 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play:

Group 15: (15) Pat Perez vs. (50) Si Woo Kim, halved: The first match of the day ended up in a draw, as the top seed rallied from a deficit to salvage half a point. Kim won three of the first six holes and held a 3-up lead with seven holes to go, but Perez fought back with four birdies over the next six holes to draw even.

Group 15: (24) Gary Woodland vs. (37) Webb Simpson, halved: This group remains entirely up for grabs since nothing was decided on the opening day. Woodland took a 3-up lead at the turn, but Simpson rallied by winning four of the next seven holes, including a birdie on No. 17 that brought him back to all square for the first time since the third hole.

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Watch: Thomas saves par from impossible position

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 5:18 pm

Luke List was just hoping for an opening in his Day 1 match against Justin Thomas at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Thomas cracked the door on the par-4 ninth, but then quickly slammed it shut. Thomas, 3 up through eight holes, was in terrible shape after two shots at No. 9. But his third shot was a beauty, and a heartbreaker for List.

Thomas made the putt to halve the hole and make the turn 3 up.

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LPGA's new Q-Series to offer deferrals for amateurs

By Randall MellMarch 21, 2018, 4:36 pm

The LPGA’s new Q-Series, which takes the place of the final stage of Q-School beginning this year, will come with a revolutionary new twist for amateurs.

For the first time, the LPGA will offer deferrals that will allow amateurs to win tour membership in December but delay turning pro until the following June or July, tour commissioner Mike Whan told

It’s a notable change, because the deferral will allow a collegiate player to earn tour membership at the end of this year but retain amateur status to finish out her collegiate spring season next year, before joining the tour.

“We haven’t done that in the past, because we didn’t want an onslaught, where every player in college is trying to join the tour,” Whan said.

The way it worked in the past, a collegian could advance through the final stage of Q-School, but if that player earned the right to a tour card and wanted to take up membership, she had to declare after the final round that she was turning pro. It meant the player would leave her college team in the middle of the school year. It was a particularly difficult decision for players who earned conditional LPGA status, and it played havoc with the makeup of some college teams.

Whan said the revamped Q-Series format won’t create the collegiate stampede that deferrals might have in the past.

“It will take a unique talent to show up at the first stage of Q-School and say, ‘I’ll see you at Q-Series,’” Whan said. “There won’t be a lot of amateurs who make it there.”

Under the new qualifying format, there will continue to be a first and second stage of Q-School, but it will be much harder to advance to the final stage, now known Q-Series.

Under the old format, about 80 players advanced from the second stage to the Q-School finals. Under the new format, only 15 to 25 players from the second stage will advance to the Q-Series, and only a portion of those are likely to be collegians.

Under the new format, a maximum of 108 players will meet at the Q-Series finals, where a minimum of 45 tour cards will be awarded after 144 holes of competition, played over two weeks on two different courses. The field will include players who finished 101st to 150th and ties on the final LPGA money list, and players who finished 11th to 30th and ties on the final Symetra Tour money list. The field will also include up to 10 players from among the top 75 of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and the top five players on the Golfweek Women’s Collegiate Rankings.

“We feel if you make it to the Q-Series finals as a college player, you are probably among the best of the best, and we ought to give you the opportunity to finish the college year,” Whan said.

University of Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur said she would prefer amateurs not be allowed to compete at Q-School, but she called this a workable compromise.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Mulflur said. “It’s better than the way it’s been in the past. That was hard, because it broke up teams.”

Mulflur said she disliked the tough position the former policy put college players in at the final stage of Q-School, where they had to decide at event’s end whether to turn pro and accept tour membership.

“I can’t imagine being a kid in that position, and I’ve had a couple kids in that position,” Mulflur said. “It’s hard on everybody, the player, the family and the coaches. You hear about coaches standing there begging a kid not to turn pro, and that’s just not the way it should be, for the coach or the player.”

Mulflur agreed with Whan that the new Q-Series format should limit the number of collegians who have a chance to win tour cards.

“I believe it’s a good compromise, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out going forward,” Mulflur said. “Kudos to the commissioner for giving kids this option.”

University of Miami coach Patti Rizzo, a four-time LPGA winner, applauds the deferral option. Two years ago, Rizzo lost her best player, Danny Darquea, who turned pro in the spring. It hurt Miami’s team.

“That was probably our best chance in seven years to win the nationals,” Rizzo said.

Rizzo said her concerns seeing a player turn pro go beyond how it affects her team.

“What all these girls need to realize now is that a degree is more important than ever,” Rizzo said. “In my day, it was like, 'My chances are pretty good. I will get my card.’ But it’s so much more competitive now. And financially, it’s hard to make it. I think it’s so much harder than it ever was. So many girls aren’t making it, and they need a backup plan.”

Darquea is playing the Symetra Tour now, but Rizzo said she is also back in Miami taking classes to finish up her final semester and get her degree.

“It’s great she is doing that, but it would have been better if she could have stayed in college three more months and got her degree and then turned pro,” Rizzo said. “I think this deferral option is great, and I would think all the college coaches will think so, too.”

Whan said collegians who take deferrals will be counseled.

“We will sit down with them and their families and explain the risks,” Whan said. “If you take a deferral and start playing on July 15, you might find yourself back in Q-Series again later that year, because you may not have enough time.”