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Big purses hurting PGA Tour says golf agent

Salaries have remained constant in most professional sports, but purses on the PGA Tour have doubled in six years and more than quadrupled in the past decade. What economic problems? More than $240 million will be offered in 48 official events this year that will be split roughly by 225 players.

That averages out to $5 million per event and more than $1 million per man -- and that's way too much as far as one prominent agent is concerned.

Marvin "Vinny" Giles, whose 20-plus golf clients include Davis Love III, Tom Kite and promising youngster Jonathan Byrd, said he told PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem that purses were too high and it was hurting the game. And he made those comments two years ago.

"I told him all you're doing is shooting yourself in the foot," Giles said. "The top players now make more money in 20 events than they used to make in 30. So what are they going to do? They're going to play 20."

Giles has a point. Tiger Woods was among three players in the top 10 on last year's money list who didn't play 20 events (the others were Ernie Els and Retief Goosen). The average number of starts for players in the top 10 was 23.1, compared to the Tour average of 29. In 1999, when purses for the year were at $135.8 million, the top 10 players averaged 25.3 starts.

Giles, who lives in Richmond, Va., but has a place in Juno Beach so he can make good use of his membership at Seminole Golf Club, isn't the first golf insider to say purses have gotten too high. Curtis Strange, the first player to make $1 million in a season (1988), and former commissioner Deane Beman have made the same remarks.

It's not the idea that Per-Ulrik Johansson could earn almost $485,000 last year and not keep his card because he finished 126th on the money list that bothers them. It's the fact that 44 of the 72 players who made more than $1 million last year did so without winning.

"There are a ton of guys now who are very comfortable making their $1 million finishing 68th on the money list," Giles said. "The greatest tour we ever had was 60 all exempt (in the 1960s and 1970s) and everybody else had to Monday qualify. That was really good stuff. Everybody wanted to win so they could get out off the bubble."

Giles, an accomplished player who won the 1972 U.S. Amateur and finished runner-up in the event three consecutive times in the late 1960s, said the average purse should drop 30 percent to about $3.5 million. He believes that would make players hungrier and sponsors more satisfied because they would in theory be getting more top players for less money.

Instead we hear how Els is cutting back on his schedule and we realize Woods certainly won't play more than his 18-19 events with his recent engagement to Elin Nordegren. Giles said Love turned down more than $2 million in business opportunities last year because "he'd rather hunt, fish or spent time with his family."

Of course, Giles knows Finchem isn't about to start lowering purses. Giles knew that before Finchem's non-plussed reaction to his comments.

"He didn't really like what I had to say," Giles said. "I understand it's his job to raise purses, but I really think it's hurting the game."

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