Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The PGA Tour Golf Marathon Adds More Miles

This has been a big week for Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour.

Yesterday, the Tour officially announced that the 2014 season won't kick off in Kapalua in January, but rather will start three months earlier at the Open in October.  The big change is that the four Fall Series events will start awarding a full allotment of Fedex Cup points, hence raising them to the same level as all other tournaments.  The Open is just a few weeks removed from the Tour Championship, so an already exhaustive season will go from nine months to ten, with the only break coming from mid-November to mid-January.

I know people very close to the Open and am happy for them.  This steroid shot from the PGA Tour speaks highly of their hard work and the quality of tournament they run.  And, if they switch the course to The Institute (a club so private it makes Augusta look like a muni) as this article suggests, it would be an awesome way to start the season.  I'm also happy for the McGladrey Classic, another Fall Series event where my favorite golfer, Davis Love III, is closely tied to as the Chairman.

While this decision boosts the profile (and surely the sponsorship dollars) of these events, I'm scratching my head about how it improves the experience for fans.  The golf season already seems like a marathon and fans will now be asked to jump into a new one a few weeks after the last one ends.  That's like having Week 1 of a new NFL season three weeks after the Super Bowl.  Then, as quickly as fans are asked to embrace a new season, they're forced to take a two month break until the Hawaii events in January.  I further worry that the longer schedule will result in lower-quality fields across the board as players have to pick and choose their events to avoid burnout.  Finally, I've always personally enjoyed the Tour season starting in Hawaii as it's like a big breath of warm fresh air after the holidays.

Following this news yesterday, the Tour announced today that is the new title sponsor of the Nationwide Tour, effective immediately.  Reports are that the deal is worth >$10 million/year for 10 years.  I couldn't find financial details of Nationwide's deal with the Tour, but I suspect that it wasn't $10 mil.  The Tour's recent decision to eliminate the traditional Q School model and make all aspiring Tour players go through the Tour for at least one season almost certainly sweetened the deal.  I've already talked about why I disagree with this decision.

Two days and two big announcements by the Tour.  I applaud them for being proactive about trying to grow their business.  I hope we look back on this week in a few years as a big one in a good way, but I fear that we will not as I don't see these decisions being fan or player friendly.  I hope I'm wrong because big in a bad way is not what a fragile industry needs right now.