It is obvious the tournament golf business is suffering economic pains, and what sport depending on public support isn’t—unless it is college football, which drinks from the fountain of a youthful spirit that never runs dry.( Look at all those bowl games that were played, meaningless competitions between two teams that in a lot of cases barely had .500 records.)
Golf enjoys no such loyalty. Only one tournament is a guaranteed, absolute sellout, and that’s because the Masters is one of a kind. Even our national championship, the U.S. Open, has no waiting list. The PGA Tour had been speaking nervously of economic stress, but Tim Finchem always ended his sentence with something uplifting. In fact, not until I read Bob Verdi’s piece in “Golf World”, following the Bob Hope Classic, did I fully realize the extent to which the Tour is walking on hot coals this year.
I thought that it was the dullest Hope Classic I’d ever seen, even with Arnold Palmer imported to give it a transfusion. Only one player among the top-rated 20 showed up, Steve Stricker, No. 16. And those scores – were they playing muni courses? If you weren’t 14-under, you didn’t make the cut. TIGER wasn’t there, of course, and Mickelson swore off a couple of years ago…I guess who wants to play four days in a row with four insurance salesmen?
It was awful. Arnold couldn’t wait to get home to Bay Hill. Meanwhile, in Qatar, eight members of the PGA Tour chose to play on the European side. This is not good, and it won’t get any better soon, Tiger or no Tiger. The Golf Writer, as we have come to identify him, is becoming a relic in a lot of sports departments.
Oh, I should mention that even the old-line sponsor of the Hope Classic didn’t show up. Chrysler had asked that its name not be used, this carmaker that for many years proudly partnered ol’ Ski Nose. Wow! Check that. And did you miss it? Buick backed out of Tiger’s corner.
I’m not sure what all this says about the future of the tournament golf business, or what kind of marketing rabbit they’re going to pull from someone’s golf cap. All I know is right now, things aren’t looking so good. Stay tuned.