THE PGA TOUR

By Tom Abts

Looking over one of my TEE TIMES’ columns, I mentioned that I would write about the PGA TOUR. Ironically, I don’t watch much golf on TV, and I hardly follow what’s going on with the TOUR. Maybe, that’s a good reason to write about it.

My sons accuse me of being a crabby old guy – maybe I am, but that doesn’t mean that what I say is wrong. I haven’t watched the Super Bowl in over 10 years. And, I love football. But, I don’t like hype. However, that doesn’t mean I’m Mr. Serious, in fact, the 24-hour ESPN analysis is ridiculous – sports details aren’t that important.

Sports are fun to play, and fun to watch. And, I think they deserve to be understood. They are games, so they involve strategy – not just skill. Baseball is more than just home runs and pitchers who can throw 100 mph. Basketball is more than 3-point shots and slam-dunks. I’m bored by Slam-Dunk contests and Home-Run derbys. Maybe that’s why I don’t watch much golf – I’m bored by big drivers who can’t putt.

Big isn’t that interesting. The World’s Biggest Ball of String is for bored kids on the family vacation – a place to stop so the kids stop complaining in the car. Would you rather have a giant plate of mediocre food or a medium plate of tasty food? I don’t mean that ridiculous scene where the plate only has a bite of food on it – trying so hard to be hip. It should be about a proper sense of proportion and quality.

It’s also about connection. Ironically, hype disconnects me – I’ve lost trust. Some people think I’m a marketing guy. Sort of. I like marketing if it connects. If it’s too cute, or too clever, or too anything I think it’s phony and it turns me off. Bigger isn’t better. More isn’t better. Better is better.

However, the marketplace isn’t all about me. So, I wish the TOUR had more diversity. I mean diversity in the sense of purist golf and party golf. Also, I’d have less golf – the TOUR shouldn’t go all year – there should be an off-season.

I’d begin the season after the New Year with the Phoenix Open. Maybe even have the final round the afternoon of the Super Bowl. Hype on hype. The Phoenix Open is fun. Sort of reminds me of the Ryder Cup. It’d be a great way to kick off the golf season.

Then take a West Coast swing – some pure golf at Riviera and Torrey Pines. And then some party golf up in Carmel at the Bing Crosby/Bill Murray Pro-Am at Pebble Beach.

Maybe keep a match-play tournament in the West Coast swing before heading to Georgia for the Masters. The Masters is so good, and so good for golf. I just hope it can stay traditional and not turn into the Super Bowl. And it can’t get pretentious and/or smug. It needs the purity and honest simplicity that is real class, and that used to be the heart and soul of the Masters. It’s still there, but it needs a shot of Bobby Jones.

Speaking of golf icons, shortly after the Masters, the TOUR has to go to Bay Hill and honor Arnold Palmer.

The TOUR has decided to move the PGA Championship to May. I think that’s a bad move. The TOUR Championship at TPC is a 5th major and May is the perfect time to host it. Seems to me that the PGA TOUR wants to take the PGA Championship away from the PGA of America and have a Southern location host it. No more Hazeltine or Whistling Straits. Not good for Northern golf markets. How can Minnesota not have a TOUR stop? Minnesota is golf crazy – look at last year’s Ryder Cup.

Many year’s ago, the PGA TOUR was a tour. It was PGA Pros at Northern Country Clubs that were closed during the winter. So, these guys hopped in station wagons and drove around the South and West playing against each other and trying to make some extra money. The money came from Pro-Ams and sponsors. Obviously it’s exploded from those early days. Yet, the Northern areas like Minnesota have been left out.

I feel like money is running sports. The money should come as a result, not drive the train. A real quality product will have a market and be successful. If the audience is turned off – the sponsors will go away and the product will die. The commissioners of the PGA, MLB, the NFL, etc. have to have the strength to not let the sponsors and television networks push them around.

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