Appearance Fees At PGA Tour Events For Top Players A "Dirty Little Secret"
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).