The PGA Tour has decided "not to seed" players as part of its new qualifying system, which goes into effect next year, according to Matin & Miceli of GOLFWEEK. The top 25 money winners on the Web.com Tour entering the finals will “receive PGA Tour cards for the next season but compete in the finals to determine their standing among the 50 card earners.” The 25 players with the “highest cumulative finals earnings also will receive PGA Tour cards.” Players will have to earn FedExCup points or money on the Web.com Tour to make the finals. The finals will “stretch over several weeks,” although the “number of finals events, and their sites, is yet to be determined.” Seedings would have “emphasized seasonlong performance, a criterion that was said to be a vital reason for the change.” Q-School’s main weakness "is that it rewards players who have a hot week, not a great year.” The finals field will be “comprised of the top 75 on the Web.com Tour money list and Nos. 126-200 on the FedExCup points list” (GOLFWEEK, 7/13 issue). AP’s Doug Ferguson wrote, “More than six months of discussions ended with what the tour felt was the most simple plan for awarding PGA Tour cards.” Q-School will “continue to be held in late fall, but only to award Web.com Tour cards.” PGA Tour Exec VP & COO Andy Pazder said that keeping the model "simple was a factor, 'but not a motivating factor'” (AP, 7/11).
DIFFERENT STROKES: The Washington Post’s John Feinstein, who wrote the '07 best-seller "Tales From Q-School," said of the new format, “It's the field of dreams aspect that many players talk about and the notion you can play your way from nowhere in the golf pantheon, to being on to the tour and then perhaps winning on the Tour and having big success on the Tour. That goes away because you can’t play your way from nowhere onto the Tour. You have to go through these several stages now, from Web.com to the PGA Tour” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 7/11). Golf Channel’s Tripp Isenhour said of the new road to the PGA Tour, “One con would be you’d eliminate the possibility for a young superstar to play six rounds of golf at finals of Q-School and go straight to the PGA Tour. But I think that argument is somewhat dulled because there are so many opportunities now for them to get on the PGA Tour through this new system and sometimes you can fake it for 108 holes. It’s very tough to fake it over three 72-hole events and they’re all million-dollar purses" (“Golf Central,” Golf Channel, 7/10).
Appearance fees are the “dirty little secret of the PGA Tour, and a poorly kept one at that,” according to Ron Sirak of GOLF DIGEST. The dispute over whether or not Greenbrier Owner Jim Justice paid Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson seven-figure fees to play in the Greenbrier Classic last week, a violation of Tour rules, is “silly.” While much “is made of the money thrown at top players by sponsors on other tours to get them to play tournaments outside the United States, the moral high ground taken by the PGA Tour is shaky at best.” Woods is “a perfect example.” He has won 29 tournaments "sponsored by companies with which he had business relationships, including Buick, American Express, AT&T and Accenture, as well as Deutsche Bank, the European Tour stop in Dubai and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which is run by his former management company, IMG." Sirak: “So Tiger gets -- or in all of these cases, used to get -- $5 million to $8 million a year from those companies as an endorsement partner and then plays in their tournament. Is that not an appearance fee? ... The Royal Bank of Canada, for example, has a bunch of players under contract … and sponsors two stops on the PGA Tour. Are those appearance fees?” It is “not illegal for a sponsor to offer a player $100,000 to do a 30-minute walk-through at a cocktail party the Tuesday before the tournament.” Sirak: “And gee, if he happens to stay and play the event, well that's just a lucky coincidence” (GOLFDIGEST.com, 7/10).
SLIPPERY SLOPE: The Washington Post’s John Feinstein said the use of appearance fees is “a slippery slope” for the PGA Tour. Feinstein: “It is very difficult for the Tour because the sponsors want the best possible fields they can get and you understand that sentiment. But if you start giving guys what are clearly appearance fees, whether in writing or not, we're talking about the spirit of the rule versus the letter of the rule. They didn't violate the letter of the rule according to the Tour because there was nothing in writing. The spirit of the rule may have very well been broken.” He added, “If everybody in that locker room believes that” Woods and Mickelson were paid, that "creates an issue.” Golfer Paul Goydos said, “The problem I have with appearance fees is that you end up with what we have in Europe, which is about (7-10) super events, where all the top players go. They all get paid big money to be there and then you have 30 events that have no field, basically. On our Tour everything is more spread out” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 7/10). In Orlando, Jeff Shain writes under the header, “Appearance Fees? Depends On The Way You Frame It.” Player appearance fees are “all part of the arms race among tournaments to land the biggest names possible.” With majors, World Golf Championships and FedExCup events “taking up as many as a dozen spots on a top player's docket, it doesn't leave much room for regular stops” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 7/12).
A federal judge in Louisiana yesterday ruled that eight former Saints players must comply with the terms of their contracts and file workers' compensation claims. The judgment, from the same federal court currently presiding over the bounty cases, affirmed an arbitrator’s August '11 award in favor of the NFL and Saints and against the players. The league then filed the lawsuit against the players and the NFLPA to enforce the decision. The NFLPA contends that despite the language of the contracts requiring them to file workers' compensation claims in the Saints’ home state, the players should be allowed to file in worker-friendly California because that state’s laws supersede private contracts. The written decision in the case has not been filed, but a one-page order from Judge Kurt Engelhardt showed he has denied the NFLPA’s request to set aside the arbitrator's decision. The NFLPA can appeal the case. The union recently dropped the appeal of a similar case in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Pro Football HOFer Bruce Matthews also has an appeal pending in the Ninth Circuit. In that case, a lower court ruled Tennessee law must be used in deciding Matthews' workers compensation claim. An attorney for the NFLPA could not immediately be reached for comment.
The USTA yesterday announced that the '12 U.S. Open purse has been increased by more than $2M to reach a record $25.5M. The top three men's and women's finishers in the Emirates Airline U.S. Open Series can earn up to an additional $2.6M in bonus prize money at the U.S. Open, depending on their performance over the course of the summer series. The total U.S. Open prize money could reach $28.1M with the bonus money. The prize money has been increased by a minimum of 18% for the first three rounds of the main singles draw (USTA).
HERE COMES THE JUDGE: ESPN.com's Chris Mortensen reported U.S. District Court Judge David Doty "has agreed to hear arguments Sept. 6" regarding the NFLPA's claim that the NFL and its owners colluded to establish a "secret $123 million salary cap" in '10, which under the league's previous labor agreement, was designated as an uncapped year of spending. The hearing "is not necessarily an automatic victory for the union, but Doty could have declined to hear arguments or even passed the case off to another judge in his district" (ESPN.com, 7/11).
OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: In DC, Matt Breen notes the U.S. women's soccer team at the London Games "will play in a major international tournament without the presence of a top-flight professional league at home." The '12 Olympics "will give the U.S. women another chance to bring their sport into the forefront and, perhaps most important, give them a chance to create a sustainable professional league." U.S. D Becky Sauerbrunn said, "We need to generate the right type of people to get a professional league going. Get sponsors, or backers, owners that have the will and money to have a professional team. The Olympics can do that" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/12).