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Tiger compaint about rights not money

Tiger Woods stood his ground today in his criticism of the PGA Tour, saying his complaint is about getting control of his own marketing rights, not about more TV money.

He also refused to rule out leaving the PGA Tour if the issues aren't settled.

"A lot of guys feel this way on tour,'' he said on the practice green at the American Express Championship.

"We're just wanting to get our rights back, and not having these implied endorsements," Woods said. "There's a lot the public doesn't understand and doesn't know about.''

Woods, whose impact on the game has been a driving force in the record level of prize money on the PGA Tour, said he would meet with commissioner Tim Finchem "when we can all sit down,'' but he did not set a time.

"It's not about getting a cut of the TV revenue,'' Woods said. "It's about doing what's right by the players. The players and the PGA Tour have been bucking heads on a lot of issues. The public has no idea, but we do it all the time."

Finchem arrived at Valderrama for meetings, but was not expected to be at the golf course until Friday.

Woods, who is trying to become the first player in 50 years to win 10 times in one season, added: "I'm busy this week."

When asked if he would ever leave the tour, Woods shrugged his shoulders, smiled and hummed ominously.

Ultimately, it could all lead to a power struggle between Woods and Finchem, and Woods's impact on the sport gives him a strong hand.

"He's such a powerful figure in the world of golf, you have to treat him with a bit of respect," said Chubby Chandler, the agent for European stars Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke.

Along with being the No. 1 player in the world, Woods has become the biggest star in sports. When his five-year, $100 million contract with Nike kicks in next year, his annual endorsements with 12 companies will be worth about $54 million.

One of his strongest complaints is how other companies affiliated with the PGA Tour take advantage of his image.

Mark Steinberg, his agent at IMG, cited the season-opening Mercedes Championships in Hawaii, with a field limited to PGA Tour winners. It runs a congratulatory advertisement with tournament winners every week.

"Do they have to congratulate a guy nine times?" Steinberg said.

Woods said such "implied endorsements'' have occurred after just about every tournament he has ever won. He said he saw a commercial during the Bell Canadian Open that featured him, David Duval, and Vijay Singh, even though the latter two did not play that week.

"I don't know if the tour says, 'Go ahead and run it,' or if they just run with it,'' Woods said. "We'd like to get an answer, and we deserve that."

Woods did not say he deserves more of the TV money he is largely responsible for generating.

Shortly after Woods won the 1997 Masters, the tour signed a four-year TV deal worth about $500 million. Total prize money this year was more than $160 million, nearly triple the level when Woods turned pro. The next contract, coming off Woods winning three straight major championships, will be negotiated this spring.

Money has become the most sensitive issue because Woods told Golf World magazine in its Nov. 10 issue, "In a perfect world, I would be'' entitled to a share.

Steinberg said it was "highly doubtful'' that would ever be the case.

"Would they be playing for that much money if Tiger was not the most recognized athlete in the world? That's not for us to say," he said. "There are too many issues involved to single that one out. Money doesn't solve it all. It's what you can do on your own without people trying to limit you from doing that.''

In negotiating the mammoth Nike deal, the sticking point in discussions that lasted over a year was getting back Woods's marketing rights, specifically with the Internet.

That appears to be the case again.

Tour regulations allow the use of player images in tournament-related advertisements, and Woods has agreed to those conditions as a tour member.

But conflicts abound.

While Mercedes runs weekly ads to show who qualified for its winners-only tournament, Woods has a $30 million deal with Buick. And last week, Woods won a fall bonus program sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Woods has a contract with American Express.

"Do you think it's fair that they can use his name like that because they're affiliated with the tour? Is that fair?'' Steinberg said.

Tiger Woods in action yesterday at Valderrama. Allsport.

"It's about rights,'' he said. "It's not about money. It's more about equity and fairness.''

This is not the first time Woods has led the charge on a divisive issue. He also refused to back down over intense public scrutiny when he, Duval, and Mark O'Meara questioned the $63 million in revenues the PGA of America made off the Ryder Cup.

Ultimately, the PGA gave each player $200,000 to divide among their colleges and favorite charities.

Nor is this the first time players have argued with the PGA Tour about such issues as advertising rights, releases to play in international events, and media fees for their special tournaments.

Nick Price said the implied endorsements have been going on as long as he has played the tour.

"If he can take on the tour and beat the tour, so be it," Price said. "I never felt I was strong enough to win. What Tiger has tried to do, a lot of guys have tried to do. Let's see what happens.''

 

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