SBD/January 19, 2011/Events and Attractions

PGA Tour Kicks Off Domestic Season Missing Top Golfers

Only six of the top 50 ranked golfers are playing the Bob Hope Classic
The Bob Hope Classic teed off today in La Quinta, Calif., but the PGA Tour event is "playing second fiddle to the European Tour's Abu Dhabi Championship, the week's big-boy gathering that will draw six of the world's top 10 players," including Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood, according to Mick Elliott of FANHOUSE.com. The Bob Hope Classic, a five-round Pro-Am event, "has six of the top 50" ranked golfers. There was a "time that the Hope was a must-play during the West Coast Swing," but players "simply do not like five rounds that (because of amateur partners) last six hours in historically foul weather." There also is the "Abu Dhabi appearance money," and "for a third straight year the Hope is being played without a title sponsor" (FANHOUSE.com, 1/18). ESPN.com's Jason Sobel noted golf's "big names" like Mickelson, Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell all are making their season debuts this week at the Abu Dhabi Championship. Not to "take anything away" from the golfers playing the Hope, but "it will begin to feel even more like golf season with the headliners finally making headlines once again" (ESPN.com, 1/16). The Sports Xchange's Tom LaMarre in a special to FOXSPORTS.com wrote under the header, "Some Classics Becoming Hope-less." The event that "starts the California portion of the PGA Tour has struggled to draw the best names in golf since famed entertainer and tournament host Bob Hope died in 2003" (FOXSPORTS.com, 1/17). In California, Jim Alexander writes the Hope appears to be "reasonably healthy." But when the golfers "who move the needle on both the golf side and the entertainment side aren't here, the perception of creeping irrelevancy is hard to shake" (Riverside PRESS-ENTERPRISE, 1/19).

NOT ALL IS LOST: GOLFWEEK's Sean Martin wrote the Hope's "days of attracting headliners may be over, but things at least are looking up." Seven of the top 20 earners on last year's PGA Tour money list are playing in this week's event, including Matt Kuchar, the "first player in five years to play the Hope after finishing in the top five of the previous year’s money list." The improvements in the field would "seem to bode well for 'designated events,' the PGA Tour policy designed to help weaker events get top players in their fields." Instead of "becoming mandatory, the event was made voluntary at the end of last year." But while the "top players in the Hope field should be commended for their continued support of this event, 'designated events' asked players to enter an event that they hadn’t played recently." Martin noted "all seven of the top-20 money winners in the Hope field played last year." Still, more players who "first came to the Hope as fresh-faced youngsters have remained loyal to the event, even as they’ve ascended pro golf’s hierarchy," and that "bodes well for the event" (GOLFWEEK.com, 1/18). Golfer Stewart Cink said, "One thing I wish people would do is focus on who is here instead of who is not here. There’s a lot of players out there that we don’t know their names and there’s players that I don’t know who they are that can play really good golf and hit tremendous shots and that we’ll know who they are one day we just don’t know yet" (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 1/19).

WHERE LIES THE RESPONSIBILITY? YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Busbee wrote the PGA Tour has "rested on its rep for far too long, and it's not only the players' job to rep the tour, it's the tour's job to attract the players." However, Mickelson should "throw some love to the tour that's served him well for all these years." Busbee: "His presence would do wonders for the Hope; shouldn't he be strongly encouraged to play at home?" But YAHOO SPORTS' Shane Bacon wrote it is not Mickelson's "job to carry the tour, as much as it has served him, and Phil playing overseas just shows the beauty of this game." Bacon: "Sure, he's going for money, but he's also taking the PGA Tour on the road with him in a sense. If Phil wins, or plays decent, he's being a solid ambassador for American golf" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/18).
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