Next week is the start of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. So let’s be honest, why is this tournament one of the most attended events on the PGA Tour? It probably has mostly to do with the hot sorority chicks and cold beer rather than the golf that is being played. Let’s not forget that Arizona State University is consistently ranked among the best party schools in America. Ask any of the sorority chicks what a “driver” is and they will tell you they need one to get them home safely. People go to this tournament because of one reason, it’s a big freaking party.
I came across an interesting article on The Arizona Republic website today that brought up a comparison between the Phoenix Open and the Bob Hope Classic two weeks ago. The Phoenix Open gets one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, attendance stats anywhere on the PGA Tour. For a couple years now the Bob Hope Classic has been struggling to get some of the big names to come play their event. It’s especially difficult when a competing event in the United Arab Emirates is able to pay millions of dollars in appearance fees to the top players in the world. This, along with the 6 hour rounds at the Bob Hope make it impossible to attract the big names to the California desert.
In my eyes, the PGA Tour season really doesn’t get started until the Farmers Insurance Open, which is played this week at Torrey Pines. It seems this is the first true stacked field every year and it’s normally when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson make their first PGA Tour starts. It’s also typically the first week you see CBS Sports covering the event, if they are not doing the Super Bowl. The first event of the year, the Hyunadia Tournament of Champions is a good event, but I can’t really think of it as the official starting event with the limited field. The Sony Open is the first full field event but the time difference in Hawaii makes it difficult for people in the mainland to watch late into the evening. The Bob Hope is after the Sony, and like I said earlier, it takes 6 hours to play a round of golf with all the celebrities that are playing.
So what is the PGA Tour to do to ensure top talent at each event? Well I think we will start hearing more about this over the next couple years as TV sponsorships come up for renewal and sponsors continue to change. The economy may be slowly turning around, but these corporations are still going to be cautious when it comes to throwing $20 million over five years to be the title sponsor of a PGA Tour event. They want to know they will get maximum exposure for their brand name, and if Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are not playing, it’s tough to get maximum exposure.
The PGA Tour will never be able to offer appearance fees because it will truly ruin the charity giving they do each year. Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour brass have many other options and I imagine something will be changed over the next couple years.