Et tu, Phil?
In a move that has to have the suits at PGA Tour HQ gnashing their teeth -- whatever that means -- Phil Mickelson has declared that he'll be making his first competitive appearance in the Middle East to play in the Abu Dhabi Championship in January. The event will draw a world-class field, including Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer.
“The Arabian Gulf is now established as an important part of worldwide golf and the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship is a centrepiece of the sport in the region,” read a statement attributed to Mickelson, but one he probably didn't come within 10 miles of uttering. ("Centrepiece"?) "I understand the course and hospitality are among the best anywhere so I’m really looking forward to my first trip out there."
That's nice, Phil, but what about your stateside brethren? Does Mickelson owe the PGA Tour the honor of his first appearance of the season? Well, yes and no.
On one hand, it's kind of a jerk move for Phil to go totally me-first, especially considering the precarious state the PGA Tour is in vis-a-vis the European challenge. On the other, though, Phil is an independent contractor, and has the right to play wherever he wants. Isn't it up to the PGA Tour to make the event as attractive as possible for its marquee stars?
This was an issue for the Hope last year, when most of the world's best players opted for the larger payday (and the freedom from playing in the onerous pro-am) by playing in Abu Dhabi. At the time, we suggested that it could lead to the PGA Tour forcing appearances at certain tournaments -- the so-called "one-in-four strategy," where players must play every tournament once every four years. Since then? Nothing.
Left to their own devices, players will obviously do what benefits them before what benefits any other entity. That's human nature. So in order to curb the I-me-mine tendency, the PGA Tour needs to create some sort of mandatory rotation period, pronto, or it risks losing far more than just prestige.