Welcome to the new season of Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Jay Busbee and head writer Shane Bacon take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by writing firstname.lastname@example.org, or hit us on Twitter at @jaybusbee and @shanebacon. Today, we kick off the year by wondering why the heck last year's champions aren't showing up at the champions-only kickoff event.
Busbee: It's here! It's finally here! The start of the 2012 season! And it begins with ... well, no offense to Kapalua, but with a bit of a fizzle. Only two players in the top 10 are even at the Hyundai Tournament of "Champions," and that just isn't good enough. We need more. We need better. We need more of the better. But how, exactly, do we do this, Shane?
Bacon: It seems the only way to get guys to come anywhere is money. Lots and lots of money. But golf is becoming big enough where it seems demanding a little is OK for the PGA Tour to do, right? I think making former winners play in this event seems legit. I mean, forcing a millionaire to go to a golf course with no cut in Hawaii seems pretty horrible, doesn't it? Could the PGA Tour do that? Does demanding PGA Tour winners to show up at ONE tournament go against everything that golf stands for?
Busbee: It's such a tremendous pain to have to deal with the "independent contractor" nonsense for non-major tournaments. The opening of the PGA season should have all the pomp and circumstance of baseball's Opening Day, the NFL's kickoff weekend and NASCAR's Daytona 500. Instead, it's more like the NBA, where nobody pays attention until Christmas ... or the Masters, whichever. I don't think it's out of line to demand tour winners go to ONE tournament. Question is, how do they go about that? Make it part of the deal in getting the card?
Bacon: I think they make it part in getting the exemptions that come with a win. Win a regular PGA Tour event and you get two years exempt on tour. That is only an option if you come to the Tournament of Champions to start the year. I mean, it might seem demanding at the time, but in 10 years nobody would think different about it. Plus, it would give the PGA Tour a great start to the season during a time when all other sports are really hitting their stride.
Busbee: Agreed. See the PGA Tour commercial during the Orange Bowl? (Much more interesting than the game itself, but I digress.) Golf needs a foothold early, and putting the game's best on display early would do just that. I like the exemption idea; you want the benefits, you pay the price. You think golf has the stones to do that? I could see them phasing it in -- say, less than five years of service, you have to obey us, at least initially.
Bacon: They'd never do it, but it sure would make it more fun. It's like the Grand Slam of Golf. How horrible is it to be forced to play in an event AFTER YOU WIN A MAJOR?! I'd like them to do this, just because it would give us all a chance to see all the winners from the previous year once before they go back into hibernation before Torrey Pines. And then the Masters. Golf has become such a top-heavy sport that if they don't figure something out fast, the big names will play in 10-15 events a year on either tour and call it a season.
Busbee: Here's one other element: sponsors. You think Random Midwestern Insurance Co. is going to want to sponsor a tournament when the best players in the game are taking a month off? Not a chance. Golf needs to figure a way to leverage sponsors in the equation and put more pressure on the players to, you know, play.
We can always hope, right?
Bacon: And if nothing else, we get golf on at night this weekend. And Bubba.
All right, you're up. Should the tour force its champions to play in the season-starting event? Have your say!
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