Thursday, 10 July 2008

Tournament Selection Policy

Kenny Perry has kicked up a bit of a fuss by electing not to play in the British Open this year. Despite being one of the hottest players on the US PGA Tour this year, the veteran has decided to play against some relatively weak fields on the US Tour instead. He is lining up in the John Deere Classic this week and the second string U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee next week, the week of the British Open.

While commendable for honouring commitments made before his run of form, there is something wrong when a guy can simply decide not to bother his arse competing in a Major. Despite all the guys who would give their eye teeth to tee it up in the British Open (or any other massive tournament), Perry would rather focus on making the Ryder Cup in his home state. He is pretty unapologetic about it, despite being practically a shoe-in for the team already and showing what easily be construed as a certain disrespect for the game. While it is his right to pick and choose where he plays, this is indicative of a deeper malaise in golf.

As pointed out by Tom Pernice Jr, a US PGA Tour Policy Board member, unlike stars of team sports, golfers are free to choose where and when they play, as long as they play the minimum number of events (15 in the US). This has resulted in consistently weak fields in some events and super rich stars pulling out of big events (like Majors or The Tour Championship) to suit themselves. This in turn leads to problems with sponsors, so it is in the tour's interest to sort it out.

What can be done? Hard to say. An economist will tell you life is all about incentives. It's pretty hard to offer incentives to pampered multi-millionaires though! You could try making some tournaments mandatory, but I'm sure sudden injuries would crop up. You could perhaps vary the ranking points at different events each year or band tournaments together. With the latter, the pros would pick different events from each band each year. Doesn't sound workable in practice though, does it?

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