Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Will the economy crisis affect the Tours?

With financial institutions falling by the wayside on a daily basis, the entire country is in an upheaval. I realize this isn’t a political blog and we can all be thankful for that. However, this is a golf blog and mention of failing financial institutions is apropos in this instance.

A quick look at the PGA Tour schedule reveals 10 tournaments that have financial institutions as title sponsors. This number doesn’t include those that are sponsors on a lesser level. In a cliché, “Houston we have a problem.”

This number also doesn’t include the Champions and Nationwide tours who have a couple of title sponsors apiece. In fact, Bank of America that has sponsored a Champions Tour event in Massachusetts and is the longest running tournament (under different titles) on the elder bracket having been on the schedule since year one. They bailed out before this year’s event.

A quick look at the LPGA and the Duramed Futures schedules showed that they also have two financial title sponsors each. While we bet that in the past, they were disappointed that they only had two title sponsors from the financial community; today they must be breathing a sigh of relief.

The truth is title sponsorship carries an awesome fiduciary responsibility that far surpasses the purse. First and foremost, the title sponsor is most often responsible for the TV time. This means they either must fill the commercial time with their own commercials, or make sure the time is sold. In the past, this meant filling the weekend slots. Now, with The Golf Channel and others broadcasting the first two rounds, the financial responsibility has grown exponentially.

While the nuts and bolts of the bailout bill are being hammered out in Congress, you can be sure the midnight oil is being burned in Ponte Vedra and Daytona, Florida. It would be a shock if any of the financial institutions will have the nerve to retain sponsorship of a golf tournament. I think they’ll go the way of Ford, who sponsored the Players Championship on the Champions Tour as well as Doral on the PGA Tour. Not only did they drop those sponsorships, they pulled the plug on a very lucrative deal with Phil Mickelson when they started closing plants and laying off workers.

The cold hard facts are that these financial institutions will have a difficult time justifying these tremendous expenditures. If you couple that with a failing economy it’s obvious that the professional tours have a definite problem. Don’t be surprised if tournament schedules are a bit shorter next year.

The one thing the PGA Tours have going for them in this instance (and I hate to say it) is Commissioner Tim Finchem. If you find yourself in a political turmoil, you need a politician to get you out of it. Enter Timmie. In a past life, Finchem was a lobbyist on Capitol Hill. These skills alone may come in handy in preserving the schedule. However, I seriously wonder if he’ll be able to maintain the purse structure. It should be interesting.


Last weekend was the Tour Championship and the coronation of Vijay Singh as the King of the FedEx Cup and no one except Singh and his accountant and probably his caddie cared. Next year, there will be another version and another system. Maybe they’ll finally get it right if that is at all possible, but I really doubt it. The FedEx Cup was meant to mimic the NASCAR Race to the Chase. Thus far, it’s been nothing short of a monument to greed. It’s tough to justify a $10 million payoff with a faulty product. I would be shocked if FedEx renews the contract.

Unfortunately for the Tour, the FedEx contract expires the same time the current TV contract expires. Those could be dark days for the Tour.

Bartender, make my next one pure H2O straight from the tap. Times being as tough as they are, it’s time to tighten the purse strings you know.

See you on the first tee,


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