I've been pondering the state of the professional golf world lately. I'm hardly an economist, but it's hard not to notice that tough financial decisions are being made every day...from Fortune 500 companies to you and me. I'm eating out less, keeping my thermostat a little lower, and trying really hard not to buy new golf shoes (unless it's a REALLY good deal!).
But how long can they last? If you look at the field, the top ranked player on the OWGR in the field this week is number 37, Mike Weir. Whoa. Now, for me, just like the SBS, I can find hours of entertainment regardless of who is in the field, but it's hard to deny that big names mean more exposure, more fans, and more money.
You can read any number of articles and analyses of why the Bob Hope tournament is struggling and what it needs to consider in order to survive. Strikes against it include, being a 5-day event, the Pro-Am format (aka LONG rounds), some questionable course choices, the date, and unpredictable weather. The combination of celebrity and golf doesn't seem to carry that same appeal as it did a generation or two ago. I think that's too bad, but I guess we have to remember that for professional golfers, each week is a job...and just competing in a regular event, without the parties and pro-ams the entire week, is a big investment of time.
A few weeks ago Sam Johnson wrote about the long seasons in most sports. My response to his lamenting was that as long as there are sponsors willing to invest in golf tournaments, why complain?
As much as it pains me to admit it, maybe Sam's idea is something the PGA Tour needs to explore. Is the beginning of the year starting to resemble the Fall Series where we see more marquee players choose to take time off or head over to play overseas (for some serious appearance money)? Do the "journeyman" Tour players need these events, or could the money invested in "less popular" events be better served in other ways? I don't know.
What I do know is, from a fan standpoint, I wish there could be professional events in every state so that more golf fans could experience professional golf live and in person. Minnesota hosting the PGA Championship last year, and the US Women's Open in 2008, was an amazing gift. I am already counting the days until the Ryder Cup is here in 2016!!!
But again, I realize you need a great course, a great market...and money, to make any tournament work. And now is hardly the time to hope for new money to be popping up to support golf. But a girl can still dream, right?
But before we go slashing a few weeks off of each end of the season, I think we need to remember that the other thing that every tournament does, whether it's a Major or a fall series event, is inject a lot of economic spirit into the communities they are in. And of course we can't forget the incredible charitable impact each tournament produces.
Regardless of whether or not A-list players are in the field, it seems to me that every tournament matters in some way. Maybe it's up to us to change our way of thinking and appreciate the players who are willing to travel to all corners of our country to play in events that will make a difference to a lot of people that will never pick up a club during that week.
There is some good golf news in our troubling economy. Sea Island, Georgia, is the newest location for a PGA Tour event! The RSM McGladrey Classic has been added to the Fall Series this October. Davis Love and Zach Johnson have already committed and will be involved in the event...some great names to have around that late in the season! Maybe not all hope is lost yet.
I know golf is entertainment and lots of fans just want to see the best players in the world wow us each week. But the fact is, the best players don't have to play every week, and the draw to play outside of the US seems to be attracting more of the players we'd love to see at events like the Bob Hope Classic. It's hard to blame them. But rather than keeping golf on shelf, maybe it would be fun to get to know some of the players that might fall behind the shadows of our favorite golf stars. Heck, there's even a Sam in the field this week!
I hope the Hope will be around for a long time to come...but I guess only time...and the economy, will tell.
I'm excited that Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker will be playing the Hope this week - I hope they got the memo that they are in my 2010 predictions this year...it would be great to mark one off in January!! For those of you that can, I hope you enjoy PGA Tour golf this week...remember, ALL these guys are good.
Filed under: economy, US Womens Open, PGA Championship, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, RSM McGladrey, Bob Hope Classic