SBD/March 4, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Playing A Fivesome: Roundtable Of PGA Tour Players Discuss Sport's Top Issues

Flesch says Tim Finchem has done a good job of maintaining PGA Tour sponsors
SI's Gary Van Sickle recently conducted a roundtable discussion with five members of the PGA Tour, hitting on some of the hot topics that face the Tour. Van Sickle noted the Tour has signed several new sponsors "in a tough economy," prompting the question of whether we should be optimistic or pessimistic about the Tour's future. Steve Flesch said in the "grand scheme of things commissioner Tim Finchem has done well to maintain 95 sponsors -- 45 on the PGA Tour and 25 or so each on the Champions and Nationwide tours. That's pretty darn good." Davis Love III said, "If you looked at the PGA Tour without looking at the economy, you'd say we're struggling a bit. Based on the economy, you'd say we're kicking butt." Love noted several automakers and financial institutions that previously sponsored tournaments left due to the economy and said, "To fill in all those blanks and not go backward is a miracle." J.J. Henry noted he is optimistic, saying, "It says a lot about our product and the character of our players that we're fully sponsored in a down period and have kept purses up." Meanwhile, the Tour's television contracts expire after the '12 season, and Ted Purdy said, "I'm grateful that Finchem is doing the next TV negotiation because he's been there. I don't think we want a new guy in there at this juncture."

COMMISH FOR A DAY: Van Sickle asked the panel what they would change if they could be commissioner of the PGA Tour for one day. Golfer Ben Crane said, "Not a thing. Just keep doing what we're doing." Henry noted the Super Bowl "moves around every year" and wondered whether the FedExCup playoffs could follow suit. Henry: "Why couldn't, say, Hartford and the BMW Championship switch spots on the calendar for a year? ... Let everyone have a chance to host a playoff event, not just the same cities every year." Love said he would "make the Nationwide tour bigger, make it the way to get to the regular Tour instead of qualifying school." Purdy would "increase the fields at all the big-dollar events." Purdy: "Why limit the fields at the World Golf Championships to 60 or 70 players?" Flesch agreed with Purdy, adding the fields for WGC events "should be bigger -- at least 120 players." He added, "And I'd add a cut so they're not freebies anymore" (SI GOLF+, 3/7 issue).
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