becoming harder to find
Somewhere on a shelf in the office of the FedEx St. Jude Classic
is a three-ring binder that holds ''The Tiger Plan,'' an outline
of what to do should Tiger Woods commit to play in this PGA Tour
event in Memphis.
Among the directions is a reminder to order 30% more port-o-potties.
''We've never used the plan,'' says Phil Cannon, the tournament's
director, ''but every now and then we dust it off and discuss it.''
With the Tour poised to begin a new season Thursday in Hawaii,
tournament directors are dreaming of attracting Woods, the one man
who can draw international attention -- and more bathrooms -- to
a local event.
''Whatever you had without Tiger,'' Cannon says, ''whether that's
security guards, concession stands, volunteer uniforms or port-o-potties,
you increase by a third.''
Woods, who had knee surgery in December, won't play in the Mercedes
Championships this week. He isn't expected to return to competition
for a month, but his impact on golf has been mind-boggling.
* In 1995, golfer Greg Norman set a record by winning $1.6 million.
Last year that figure wouldn't have been in the top 30 in Tour earnings.
* This year's Kemper Open, one of the Tour's lower level events,
will have a purse of $4.5 million, $1 million more than two years
ago. In 1980 the purse was $400,000.
Because of Woods' presence, corporate and TV money has been thrown
at the Tour since 1996. It has helped golf rise past the label of
a ''niche'' sport, and Woods has become perhaps the most famous
athlete in the world.
But this year -- despite heading into a robust 48-event schedule
and a record $220 million in purses -- the money has not come easy.
* Ten companies found the price for title sponsorship (up to $7
million a year) too expensive to renew given the downturn in the
* Many of those 10 were replaced with blue-chip companies, but
the turnover in title sponsors was the highest in years and made
the Tour's staff scramble to peddle the product and solidify the
* Four of the tournaments -- the Phoenix Open, The Heritage, the
Greater Hartford Open and the Las Vegas Invitational -- will operate
on bridge sponsorships, financial agreements that patch together
multiple sponsors to get them through this season.
Did the PGA Tour, not yet taking a breather from the full-court
press of solidifying sponsors, grow too fast? Has it priced itself
out of the market? And is its economic success too reliant on Woods?
Or given today's economic realities, was the Tour's ability to
increase prize money and attract sponsors such as Ford, Bank of
America and Wachovia testimony to its power?
Waiting by the phone
While the players loosen up for a new season in Hawaii, Dan Baker
sits in cold Cromwell, Conn., hoping the next phone call will be
someone who wants to sponsor the Greater Hartford Open.
''About once a week somebody inquires,'' says Baker, the event
director. ''But nothing happens that's significant.''
The Greater Hartford Open, scheduled in July, has time to find
a sponsor, as does The Heritage in April and the Las Vegas Invitational
in October. The Phoenix Open, coming up Jan. 23-26, does not.
Woods might not play in any of these events. Pete Kuehner, the
Phoenix Open chairman, says the problem is the economic conditions.
''Had we been caught in a situation like this two years ago,''
Kuehner says, ''I think I would have had five to six companies interested.''
However, on the 2003 schedule are two new events, the Wachovia
Championship in Charlotte and the Deutsche Bank U.S. Championship
in Boston. Both are more than hoping Woods plays those weeks.
Kym Hougham, the Wachovia tournament director, met with Woods and
his agent, Mark Steinberg, at The Tour Championship in November.
Hougham says it was a casual meeting and he'll speak with Woods
The Deutsche Bank is all but certain to get Woods because his foundation
is the tournament's charity and the event was developed by IMG,
which represents Woods.
''His plate is pretty full,'' Hougham says. ''Realistically, a
lot of the events are never going to see Tiger Woods.''
That's because the Tour operates as a trade organization and its
players work as independent contractors. As such, they are not required
to play every tournament. Woods played 18 Tour events last year,
and he's expected to play 18-20 this year. (A player must play 15
events to maintain his voting rights on Tour issues.)
Among Woods' 18 events are the four majors and three or four World
Golf Championship events. He has an endorsement contract with Buick,
and although the Tour prohibits any golfer from signing a contract
that requires him to play an event the company sponsors, Woods plays
two of the four events sponsored by Buick.
The Tour does not allow appearance fees for fear of a conflict
of interest, but the European PGA Tour does. Woods has played in
Germany in recent years at prices reportedly about $2 million.
''You can't tie the two,'' Kuehner says, ''but if you're under
contract to Buick, aren't you going to feel obligated to go to their
Last year 61 golfers made more than $1 million on the Tour, and
of them the most events any one golfer played was 34 by John Rollins.
The fewest was 15 by Retief Goosen. Ernie Els and Nick Price, like
Woods, played 18.
''What we're seeing is nothing new,'' says Ben Brundred, who ran
the Kemper Open for 20 years. ''In 1980 I was trying to get Arnold
Palmer and Jack Nicklaus to play my tournament.
''The difference is Tiger. There has never been a player who dominates
the Tour and draws the media attention that Tiger gets.''
What helps attract players is a mystery. Money doesn't seem to
be the answer, though some agents will tell you it is.
''I don't think there's a player on the Tour who doesn't know the
purse of the event they're playing,'' says Tommy Limbaugh, who represents
former U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen.
Hougham thinks the golf course is important, and everyone thinks
the position on the schedule affects an event's chances of getting
Woods and the other top players.
Woods never plays the week before The Masters, but last year he
played the Buick Open the week before the PGA Championship. This
year the Kemper Open is the week before the U.S. Open.
''My guess is he won't play the week before the Open,'' Brundred
says. ''But you never say never.''
With or without Woods, the tournaments are obligated by contract
to keep increasing the purses.
In 2006, the last year of the contract with the Tour, the Kemper
will have a purse of $5.2 million. On top of that is $2 million-$3
million to televise the event and another $400,000 in amenities
for the players.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem did not comment for this article
but said in November, ''The strength and the quality of the sponsorship
group that we see now is improved. (That) will set us in good stead
for the next five or 10 years.''
At the current prices it would appear difficult to justify the
involvement, but Kevin Demsky, who runs the sports marketing program
for Federal Express, says golf is a good buy. In 2003 FedEx will
be the title sponsor for the Tour stop in Memphis for the 17th consecutive
''Our ability to do what we need to do is not driven by marquee
players,'' Demsky explains. ''The tournament is only one of the
things we do for the people we're entertaining.''
FedEx entertains 350 customers during the week of the tournament.
Only 20 of them play in the tournament's pro-am. The others play
in golf outings off site and attend the tournament as spectators.
Demsky says the customers who came to the tournament did 13 percent
more business with FedEx than the previous year.
As tournament director, Cannon is responsible for filling the field.
He has never had Woods play in his event, and he isn't sure he'll
be able to attract him.
''There are six or seven guys playing the Tour who can move the
needle,'' he says. ''They are the guys you recognize by their first
name -- Phil Mickelson, Davis Love, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els.''
Cannon says there are a lot of needles, or barometers, to the success
of a tournament. They include attendance, TV ratings and charitable
donations, which come from the profit once the bills are paid.
This will be the 46th year for the Memphis tournament, and every
director has struggled to get marquee players.
''Our charity is the St. Jude Hospital,'' Cannon says. ''St. Jude
is the patron saint for lost causes, but we don't feel like we're
a lost cause. We'll have a good tournament regardless of who plays.''
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