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IMG defends Ford corporatate outing

The PGA Tour is reviewing its policy on corporate outings during the week of a tournament, hopeful of avoiding the perception of appearance fees for marquee players.

``We have regulations that we think are strong, and we're going to look at those to see if they need to be modified,'' Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour, said Tuesday. ``We've notified tournaments that this is not something we'll stand for. And we've notified players.''

The issue of corporate outings was raised two weeks ago when the Ford Championship at Doral paid up to $600,000 for Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington to play with selected Ford dealers.

All of them played at Doral later in the week, helping give the tournament 11 of the top 12 players in the world.

Golf World magazine obtained a letter from IMG sent to tournament sponsors that offered a menu of marquee players for anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000 apiece. The letter said the players, who might not have a history of playing that PGA Tour event, would look ``favorably'' upon staying for the tournament.

Mark Steinberg, head of the golf division in North America for IMG, said Tuesday that letter was merely a written response to verbal negotiations with a specific client.

``This is not pay-for-play,'' Steinberg said. ``These players were down there on Monday performing extensive services. It was 18 holes of golf, pictures, autographs, cocktail parties. If that event happened to be three months later, we wouldn't be thinking about this. The fact it happened on Monday is because Ford thought it could get the best response from its dealers.''

Appearance fees are not allowed on the PGA Tour.

IMG was able to skirt the policy by not guaranteeing an appearance, rather suggesting that players would consider playing in the tournament. Likewise, sponsors such as Buick (Tiger Woods), 84 Lumber (Vijay Singh) and Ford (Phil Mickelson) do not have a clause in their endorsement contracts requiring those players to show up for tournaments.

The tour allows corporate outings on the Monday and Tuesday of a tournament, provided tickets are not sold and that the event is held away from the PGA Tour course.

``We may recommend a change to the board,'' Hughes said.

Steinberg said the IMG letter obtained by Golf World was not a blanket proposal to every tournament.

``It was a response to months and months of verbal conversation we were having with a sponsor,'' he said. ``That's what led to us responding to what the company wanted to see in writing. They wanted to see a price range.''

Included on the menu were some clients that IMG does not represent -- Davis Love III, John Daly, Jim Furyk, and Fred Couples among them.

Steinberg said it was never IMG's intention to represent those players, and he has spoken to their agents.

There might be some explaining to do for some of IMG's clients, particularly Ernie Els.

The South African, who regularly takes appearance money overseas, said he was angry to learn his name was on the price list without ever being contacted. Els was listed in the upper tier with Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen and Sergio Garcia, where the rate was between $100,000 and $200,000.

``I made it very clear to IMG and to the tour here that I'm not for it,'' Els said. ``I'm not standing for it. And for people to speak on my behalf without talking to me, I don't like that very much.''

 

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