Davis Love III sat on a plane in Las Vegas, waiting to take off for Idaho. He had played in the Shriners Hospital for Children Open and he and Robin, his wife, were heading for their place in Sun Valley so do some preliminary preparation for Christmas.
The Shriners tournament is a segment of what the PGA Tour calls “The Fall Series,” which, for the most part, is last call in most cases for those players looking to save their cards for the following season. “The Fall Series” came onto the schedule when the PGA Tour married into the FedEx Cup three years ago, and which is still stumbling about in search of legitimacy.
You see, for one month and a half of the Tour, only 144 members have a place to play, and the number dwindles as each event is played. So the idea was to make it up to those who miss out with a secondary tour on which they might enhance their bank accounts, and maybe even win a tournament. Give it a name. Call it “The Fall Series,” consisting of six tournaments. And while it’s being played Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are playing a European Tour event in China.
Offhand, it seems the Nevada public is not impressed.
“I was paired with Jonathan Byrd the other day,” Davis said, “and I had won here before. No more than six or seven people followed us.”
What television revealed was a tournament that, for the most part, went unwatched by a live gallery. Time and time again, players teed off on a hole without a spectator in sight. Not only that, but paid commercials advertised products not widely known, unless you are into sex-enhancers.
“Not being able to sell commercials is a reflection of the econ omy,” Davis said, “and it’s not just golf. I was watching a stock car race on TV in Charlotte, the center of stock car racing, and at night. There were vacant seats all over the place. It’s the economy, and it’s going to be tough to grow the game. I’ll be going back on the policy board next year, and we have our work cut out for us.”
The purse for the Shriners event was $4.2 million. The winner—who turned out to be a young Scot named Martin Laird— pocketed $756,000. The player who finished last got $8,184. What did the hospital collect? The sum was unpublished, but most of it had to come out of the PGA Tour treasury, that amount not covered by commercial fees, which could have left the Tour with a big hole in its pocket. You’d have to say, Tim Finchem and his policy board have a demanding season ahead. And we all wish Davis Love and his board a season of fertile brain-storming.