SBD/January 4, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

PGA Tour Begins '13 Season In Hawaii Without Top Names Like Rory And Tiger

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Keegan Bradley is one of five Major winners in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
The '13 PGA Tour season begins Friday with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, but the "four top-ranked golfers in the world" -- Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Tiger Woods and Justin Rose -- are among the eligible players skipping the event, according to Ann Miller of the HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER. In all, “seven of last year's 37" PGA Tour event winners are missing from this week's field, continuing a recent trend. NBC's Mark Rolfing, Hawaii’s “point man for pro golf,” said he talked to PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem this week, and they "agreed we need to take a good long-term look at the PGA Tour in Hawaii and what's it going to be like." Rolfing said, "I know the date is problematic. We've got guys skipping that never skipped before. ... The fact is, it should be one week later. Next year will be worse. New Year's Day is Wednesday of tournament week.” Miller noted the PGA Tour Sony Open, the “first full-field event of the year, is next week at Waialae Country Club.” Sony's commitment as title sponsor extends through ‘14, though Rolfing “worries weaker fields and the date's conflict with the International Consumer Electronics Show could mortally wound a tour stop that goes back nearly 50 years.” Meanwhile, this is the final year of Hyundai's title sponsorship for the TOC, and the tournament’s “holiday date and diluted fields make it tough on extension talks.” Rolfing said, "I've talked to a whole lot of players, and I think one week would make a huge difference" (HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER, 1/3).

A DIFFERENT WORLD: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Jason Sobel wrote the TOC has been “losing superstars on an annual basis for the past decade, yet has continued in its current form.” That could “translate to the Tour being labeled more inflexible than any of the players.” When the likes of Woods and Phil Mickelson "first played this tournament, there were no World Golf Championship events, no FedEx Cup playoffs and less of an importance on other late-season global events.” Golfer Webb Simpson said, “The way the game is changing, it’s becoming more global. Guys are playing around the world more than they used to.” Sobel noted as if to “further complicate matters, this tournament will remain in its current slot going forward, despite the impending wraparound schedule.” That means PGA Tour winners during each calendar year “will earn invitations to an exclusive event that will now fall as the seventh tourney of the season, but first of the actual year” (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 1/2).

HYUNDAI HAPPY: GOLFWEEK’s Jim McCabe reported despite Hyundai’s three-year sponsorship contract expiring after this week, Hyundai Senior VP/Marketing Steve Shannon “didn’t sound like a man who was seeking any panic buttons.” Shannon said, “The way that golf has changed, how many times they need to play ... there’s not much we can do about that. But there’s a lot we like about this, and the field still is awfully good. So we don’t have any concerns. There are so many positives about this one.” Shannon added of how the new ‘14 schedule would change the event, “I guess in some ways we’ll see, but we are not terribly concerned about it. We have pretty good confidence that the PGA Tour kind of knows what they are doing. ... We are very bullish. We don’t have anything to announce this week, particularly because we are so focused in executing another great event. But we’ve had discussions with the PGA Tour, but we just need to get this tournament behind us and then have some more discussions with them” (GOLFWEEK.com, 1/3).

NEED A RULING: GOLFCHANNEL.com’s Rex Hoggard wrote the "specter of replacement officials, and even a lockout, still looms over the PGA Tour following an unproductive offseason.” The attorney for the Tour officials’ union said that “although negotiations are ongoing” with the PGA Tour, the two sides “remain far apart on many issues.” The officials’ contract with the tour was a “one-year extension signed at the end of the 2011 season and although negotiations broke down last week, officials plan to continue to work events," including this week’s tourney (GOLFCHANNEL.com,1/2).
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