Teeing Off: Appearance fees, good business practice or tool of the devil?

Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Jay Busbee and head writer Jonathan Wall take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by writing jay.busbee@yahoo.com, or hit us on Twitter at @jaybusbee and @jonathanrwall. Today, we consider whether appearance fees are inevitable or the root of all evil in golf.

Busbee: So Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson collected millions in appearance fees to show up at the Greenbrier last week and didn't even make it to the weekend. As investments go, that's about as sound as lottery tickets when the numbers have already been picked. But appearance fees are the way of the future. So, my friend, have your say: are they helping or harming the game? And no, we will not be additionally compensated for appearing in this post.

Wall: I know a lot of people probably won't agree with me, but I don't have a problem with tournaments paying appearance fees for big names. Professional golfers are private contractors, meaning they can pretty much pick and choose their events. If someone wants to give Tiger Woods a reported $1.8 million to show up, so be it. However, I think if you're going to pay a player extra, you need to be clear that you're sweetening the pot to get the big names to your event. I'm not saying you have to make an announcement, but at least be upfront if someone questions how you got Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to show up and play a relatively new PGA Tour event. Appearance fees could certainly help some of the mid-tier events on tour, but the PGA Tour needs to put some ground rules in place so tournaments know what's permissible.

Busbee: I agree with you...if somebody's willing to pay for play, let 'em. The concern, obviously, is that big-money events will get the best names and relatively smaller events will be left picking through the scraps of [insert name of player we don't wish to insult here]. Could there perhaps be a cap on appearance fees? A luxury tax where you pay a percentage of appearance fees into a pool that would boost other tournaments' purses? Or should golf be run the way that many of its biggest fans run their own corporations: he who has the gold makes the rules?

Wall: I think your luxury tax option is a great idea. Kind of like a professional sports team, if you have the funds available to pay for the players, you should be able to do exactly that. But at the same time, I think a tournament with deep pockets should have to pay a luxury tax for spending money that, say, a mid-tier event doesn't have its disposal. Maybe you could have all the luxury tax money at the end of the season go to a couple worthy charity causes, or to other tournaments' purses. Either way, I think the idea would level the playing field a bit and make tournaments think before opening their wallets.

I know I'm edging into socialist territory here, but it seems like golf almost needs to be saved from itself. Sure, it's great for the Tigers and Phils of the world, and whoever the most recent major winners happen to be, but the mid-tier tournaments are already suffering. The PGA Tour isn't the LPGA, losing tournaments left and right, but it very well could be. The Tour is built on star power, and there has to be a better way of spreading that around than simply opening up the checkbook.

All right, your turn. Should tournaments pay outlandish appearance fees? Have your say!

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