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 email@example.com, or hit us on Twitter at @jaybusbee and @shanebacon. Today, we consider whether it's time for the PGA Tour to start paying appearance fees to its marquee players.
Busbee: So Tiger Woods is playing on the other side of the world, and to no one's surprise, money is a factor. Woods confessed that the appearance fees offered up to play in Abu Dhabi were enough to get him to turn his back on Torrey Pines. So is it time for the PGA Tour to read the writing on the check? Is it time for the Tour to start paying its marquee draws to come to less-than-marquee tournaments?
Bacon: I never thought it would come to this, but it seems time for the PGA Tour to follow suit. Honestly, if it was you or me, and someone was going to pay us $500 to play at this course, or $0 to play this other one, we are taking the one with the cash, and anyone out there that dogs Tiger for taking the money is being hypocritical. I know it's a slippery slope with this, but just LOOK at the comparable fields. Tiger, Rory, Lee, Luke, Sergio vs. Phil and Bubba? It seems like a no-brainer which tournament is a bigger draw.
Busbee: $500? Shoot, I'd play a course for a free hot dog at the turn. The PGA Tour has to realize that it's no longer the only show in town, and home-country loyalty will only get them so far. The European Tour and other organizations can and will pay big money for the big names. And if the PGA Tour runs the numbers, I think you'd find that the payoff from sponsors could more than offset appearance fees if, say, you could guarantee that Woods, McIlroy and Mickelson were going to tee it up at the Anonymous Midwestern Insurance Concern Open. But how do you implement this without setting off a. a bidding war or b. resentment and fury among the Mark Wilsons of the world?
Bacon: I think B.) is the biggest problem. Where is the line drawn? Do you stop at Rickie Fowler? Hunter Mahan? Greg Chamlers? Will the PGA Tour be forced to hire some Moneyball-like mind to value what exactly a player brings to the tournament?
I guess it all comes down to what you're expecting. Pros used to always say that Tiger was the best thing that ever happened to the tour because it raised purses so high, and if he (or any of the others you named) is going to raise the interest in the event your playing, it can only end up helping you (especially if you play well).
Busbee: That's a good point: maybe any appearance fee could be tied to a measurable increase in the purse, to satisfy the other players? Then again, it's not like they're a union. This is the downside of that "independent contractor" mantra the players love to wield like a nine-iron in the driveway: sometimes, you're not the most desirable contractor.
This is an idea whose time has come, like it or not. Pay to (watch 'em) play. And let the agents figure out who can get the greatest market value for their clients. (Though I'd recommend Hunter Mahan get a haircut. Hippie.)
What downsides do you see to this, aside from the caste system/rich-get-richer which already exists?
Bacon: Honestly, is there a downside? The PGA Tour has the option to keep players here, and if the B and C-type of pro complains about it, it really doesn't hurt anyone except that B and C-player. Yes, the rich get richer, but at least they are getting rich at Doral instead of Dubai, ya know? If the PGA Tour wants to compete in the long run, this is something they'll have to seriously think about, and it might as well start now.
All right, your turn. Is it time for the Tour to start pay-to-play? Have your say. Today. You're away.