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Appearance fees raise issues on PGA Tour

There's no rematch this week between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. The substitute: rank-and-file players vs. IMG.

PGA Tour policy board member Davis Love III says players will head off a push by IMG for more corporate outings such as the one that caused a stir by attracting four top players before last week's Ford Championship at Doral.

The Miami tournament drew 11 of the world's 12 top-ranked players and culminated with Woods winning a dramatic duel against Mickelson. Both sat out the Honda Classic starting Thursday, as did three other players ranked in the top six.

The tour has long debated how to beef up weak fields, but Love rejected appearance money for corporate outings as a solution.

``That's against the tour's policies that have been around a long time,'' Love said Wednesday. ``The players I've talked to are very upset about it because one, they don't want it to happen, and two, they didn't like the way it did happen.''

The Ford Motor Co. outing in Miami involved Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel cited a tournament source as saying the fee for each player was as high as $150,000.

Love said the players weren't at fault. But he said IMG is overstepping its bounds by offering to organize more corporate outings at tournament sites to ensure commitments by top players.

``Our rules are very clear, and they are just going to be restated to all of the parties,'' Love said. ``It won't happen again. There are going to be some hands slapped and some guys with some bad feelings about it.''

Mark Steinberg, IMG's managing director of golf, didn't return phone calls seeking comment. The issue will be high on the agenda when tournament sponsors gather for their annual meeting later this month at The Players Championship.

Cliff Danley, executive director of the Honda Classic, said appearance money would create competition between sponsors for top players and could mean lower purses.

``It's not good for the sport,'' Danley said. ``It's a slippery slope if you've got to keep enticing guys to play.''

Tour veteran Fred Couples said he had mixed feelings about the issue. The strong field at Doral paid off with high TV ratings, he said.

``We really need to look at how we can get that more often,'' Couples said. ``I love Cliff Danley to death, but this isn't going to be as great a tournament as Doral. People want to see the best players. If it came down to paying six guys to come, I just don't know why that would be wrong.''

Love said appearance fees hurt tennis by raising doubts about the motivation of players receiving the guaranteed money. Golf shouldn't repeat the mistake, he said.

``You don't want to restrict a player's income,'' he said. ``But you also don't want there to be any appearance of something funny going on to try to get guys to play in tournaments. A guy misses the cut and you say `All he came for is his appearance money.'''

There should already be plenty of financial incentive at the Honda, which has the same $5.5 million purse as Doral, including $990,000 to the winner. But many top players traditionally take the week off before completing the Florida swing at the Bay Hill Invitational and The Players Championship.

Missing along with Woods and Mickelson will be top-10 players Goosen, Garcia, Ernie Els, Adam Scott and Stewart Cink. The field includes No. 2-ranked Singh, No. 12 Love, No. 8 Harrington and No. 7 David Toms.

 

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