Bellyache

A new PGA Tour policy is giving rank-and-file players like me indigestion
October 18, 2009

Last week the PGATour e-mailed the details of a new policy that forces players to schmooze withtournament sponsors next year or lose their spots in the field. It's anexpanded version of the rule that required us to play in the Wednesday pro-ams.Going forward, an event's 42 highest-ranked players will participate in thepro-am. The next 10 will be alternates, and the next 40 or so who don't getinto the pro-am will have to spend 90 minutes at a sponsor function on Tuesdayor Wednesday.

We know we have abad economy and have to do something to help the companies that write ourchecks. And it's not that we don't appreciate the sponsors. But to tell guysthat 52 of you may play and another 30 are on the hook to visit sponsors—that'sa nightmare. I can tell you that every player would rather endure a five- orsix-hour pro-am round than put on a happy face and hang out at a two-hourdinner.

It may not soundlike much, but you're there to entertain, and you have to be "on" theentire time. And you can't no-show or leave early or hide in the bathroom,since I'm sure Commissioner Finchem's disciples will be taking attendance.

Part of theproblem is that the policy is not going to affect the top players. It's theguys who fall between 50 and 110 on the money list who are going to have to doit most of the time. Those guys have to play more often to keep their cards—25to 28 times a year instead of the 16 to 18 tournaments people like Tiger andPhil play—and they'll make more tent visits than a scoutmaster. They'll beburned out by June. For the first time in history guys will be begging to playin the pro-am. One sponsor dinner is O.K., but two dozen of them? Not sogood.

If you finish 90thon the money list, you make a lot of cash, but that doesn't mean you want to bea Tour puppet every Wednesday. The Tour keeps looking for more control over usbut won't take steps to make us employees. I wouldn't be surprised if this moverevives talk of a players' association.

If the Tour reallywants to help sponsors, it should start by treating them with more respect.Take Turning Stone, which has put up $6 million a year for the last three yearsto sponsor an underappreciated Fall Series event (the Turning Stone ResortClassic). Why doesn't the Tour move that event up in the schedule, maybe to theweek in July that the U.S. Bank vacated or the week off during the FedEx Cup?To me, that would be a nicer way of saying thank you.

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PHOTOSTAN BADZ/PGA TOUR/GETTY IMAGES (MICKELSON AND WAUGH)TOP DRAW Mickelson and Deutsche Bank America CEO Seth Waugh will mix on the tee, not in the tent. PHOTOAL TIELEMANS (POLL)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)