I’m in a quandary about professional golf around the world.
First, I admit, I am addicted to everything about it. I watch it. I study it. I play it. I listen to it on Sirius Radio and above all else, except for actually playing, I absolutely love sitting around a table of tour pros and listening to the stories of their adventures.
I can also be accused of recording many golf-based programs for overtime watching. However, after watching several hours of PVR-ed material from the Presidents Cup, I wondered if I’m becoming just a little bit over-exposed.
With the new wraparound season, my chronological golf clock is already distorted.
Remember, for years, PGA Tour programming ended in the fall and resumed in mid-January. Sure, during the ‘70s and ‘80s, we had Jack, Arnie, Gary and Lee competing for crazy amounts like $5000 skins followed by Tom, Fuzzy, Greg and Freddie earning the huge sums of $10,000 for a skin.
Once Tiger joined the fray nobody could afford his $3-million appearance fees and what was known as the silly season disappeared.
Until recently, we had the PGA Tour qualifying school that provided a venue for fans to meet up-and-coming players, but the real tour season was over. Players were resting and preparing for next year.
We had the Ryder Cup, but until Jack and Seve got together nobody cared. Once the “other” side expanded to include all of Europe, you couldn’t buy a ticket.
In fact, things changed so much that insiders worry about the American public losing interest if they don’t soon field a winning team. I’m not concerned about that because the cup is only won by one or two points and/or a tie (retention) and the standard of play is beyond anything else in the world.
What does worry me is player fatigue and fan overexposure.
Basically, the Ryder Cup teams consist of four or five players who make the team every time and have done so for as many as 10 years. Another four or five make it one year, then miss the next over that same 10-year time frame.
The extras are mixed in, two or three at a time to make the full contingent.
Now, add in the Presidents Cup played in non-Ryder Cup years and you will find the same basic core players. The good news is that the Presidents Cup is made up of an American team and a team of international players.
While the Americans draw from the same pool for the two cups, their challengers only play every second year.
How many times can one player say, “I’m proud to represent my country” and not wish he was fishing?
While the Americans are challenged by an international team for the Presidents Cup, there is the Seve Trophy matches
This competition is held parallel to the Presidents Cup consisting of a team from Great Britain and Ireland against one from continental Europe and starting in 2016, we will have the Olympics every 4 years.
Where we once had a break or rather a weakened schedule from October to January, we now have a fall schedule and we haven’t even mentioned the LPGA Tour.
As I see it, there is more top level golf to watch now than any other time in history and I love it. Yet, not everyone can absorb everything that’s going on. The results of the Asian Tour, Web .com Tour, Mackenzie Tour, Latinoamerica Tour are so interwoven with the PGA Tour, it is difficult to track it all.
When you mix in top 125, top 70 (special invitations to limited fields such as Bay Hill, Muirfield and the Masters), past champions and all-time victories lists, it makes my head spin. For sure, fans have lots to watch but is is it too much?
For the players, the opportunities to earn mega bucks on the course are plentiful, but so is the opportunity for even bigger bucks in off-course revenue but are the demands too much?
Remember not only are “these guys good,” but they are independent contractors who get paid to play golf. Yes, they are allowed to specify which charity they’d like to donate to and they do realize significant tax breaks for doing so.
They also live a very good lifestyle provided through the opportunities to play in tournaments, but how much of an obligation do they have?
I foresee a time in the very near future when the careers of top players will crest very quickly and last for shorter periods of time.
Then, with earnings $25 to $50-million over a five-year time frame (Jordan Spieth earned over $20-million in on-course money this year alone), they will semi-retire and/or leave the game all together in their mid-30s.
Byron Nelson did it at age 34 in 1946.