- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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Each week, golf writer Bob Harig will take your questions and answer a few select ones on ESPN.com. Below are this week's selections.
With the Heritage's lack of sponsor being in the news, could you answer how a PGA Tour event is sponsored, where the revenue comes from, goes and what's in it for the primary sponsor? Everyone seems to have a love affair with The Heritage and it had a very strong field, so is it due to lack of an industry in South Carolina that would like to be a title sponsor?
Harig: Not all sponsorship deals are structured the same, but in general terms, this is how it works. For a regular PGA Tour event, the price tag for a title sponsor runs about $7 million per year. (This fee is negotiated based on many factors.) The biggest portion goes to the purse, which this year for the Heritage was $5.6 million.
The purse is also supplemented by the PGA Tour through its television rights fee deals. Another portion of the original $7 million goes to the television networks. Title sponsors are required to buy a certain amount of advertising time and those advertising spots appear during the broadcast of the tournament as well as other tournaments carried by the same network.
Then, depending on circumstances, some portion of the sponsorship fee goes to the PGA Tour and the local organizing group to help run the event.
What is in it for the sponsor? In addition to the advertising exposure on television and across various media platforms, the title sponsor will typically get a minimum number of spots in the Wednesday pro-am to use for clients, executives or guests, hospitality venues at the tournament, tickets, etc.
Now in order to take advantage of all of this, many companies will actually spend more than the title fee in order to fly in employees, clients, etc. So the cost of a title sponsorship can be significantly more, and that is just one year. Typically sponsorship deals are signed for several years, making this a multimillion-dollar proposition.
As for South Carolina specifically, the tournament for years was sponsored by a national company, Verizon/MCI/Worldcom. Finding local companies to foot the bill for such a huge expense is becoming more and more difficult. Hence, you have companies such as this week's tournament in New Orleans sponsored by Zurich Financial. Next week it's Wells Fargo. HP has the Byron Nelson Championship, Crown Plaza for the Colonial, Travelers for the Hartford tournament, etc. It can often be lots of companies that do business nationwide or worldwide (these events are also televised overseas.)
Given the current economic climate, and the expense of sponsoring a tournament, you can see why these deals are complicated and take considerable time to come together.
I've seen a lot about Tiger [Woods] not being all chirpy with the media and the fans [and] comparisons to Phil [Mickelson] and the like. Some suggest that we should stop giving him a pass on this by calling it "focus." My thought is: he's the best golfer since Jack Nicklaus. Maybe he's doing it right (if you consider "right" as "most conducive to winning"). It's pretty much agreed upon that players don't just flip a switch on concentration. Maybe if these other guys (like Phil, for example) weren't playing to the crowd so much, they'd be a little more consistent, like a certain Tiger Woods. Right?
-- Hunter Kopald
Harig: This topic evokes reaction that runs to every extreme. Maybe they are all doing it right. Tiger is not going to be one who smiles at fans while playing a round of golf. Phil is one who doesn't mind a high-five while walking to the tee, and it would be difficult to say he should change. He's been pretty successful doing it his way, too.
I have always enjoyed Tiger's career over the years, and his YouTube highlights are etched into my memory. With the way last season transpired, finishing T-4 in the Masters and T-4 in the U.S. Open and also performing well in the Ryder Cup, and the way this year has started and T-4 at this year's Masters, don't you think that Tiger isn't back but rather he was never gone?
I know everyone loves to talk about how his career has been derailed, and he hasn't won since the scandal, but it's no secret that he only plays the major championships and a select few PGA Tour events or WGC events. If you look at each of the final leaderboards of those 3 majors, Tiger Woods is the only name that is right there near the top in each one. It seems to me that although he is not winning these events, he is competitive in the midst of a nasty and public scandal and the ensuing divorce, and also changing his swing, which keeps him from keeping his short game sharp.
I don't see anyone else being in the hunt as consistently as Tiger, what with [Martin] Kaymer's inability to figure Augusta out, Phil's enigmatic game which he always seems to be over- or under-achieving, [Lee] Westwood's disappearance, and the list goes on ... What will it take for people to understand that he is only a couple strokes from having 17 majors?
Harig: It is true that Tiger Woods is the only player who can claim three top-5 finishes in the last five majors. But Tiger is not about top-5s. He is about winning. And he has not won since November 2009. And to say that Tiger didn't fall off is to miss the fact that he was never in contention at last year's British Open at St. Andrews (where he had won the previous two times), he had his worst 72-hole tournament as a pro at the Bridgestone Invitational (a tournament he had won seven times) and he is in the midst of his longest winless streak as a pro.
In 18 official PGA Tour events (including last year's WGC event in China) since his return at the Masters last year, Woods has five top-10 finishes and no victories. Consider the 18 starts prior: 15 top-10s and six victories. (That doesn't include his win in Australia.) So, yes, I think it is fair to say that Tiger did fall off and has yet to return. And you say he is a couple of strokes from having won 17 majors. He actually finished 4 back at both Masters and 3 back at last year's U.S. Open. That's a total of 11 shots. He certainly could have won any or all of them, but he had three people finish ahead of him in all three majors.
I couldn't help but realize in your last [mailbag] that the first topic of discussion was concerning Tiger and his new putter. People are making too big a deal out of this, and those that are making an issue out of this have all the wrong ideas. I'm reading that people think that Nike is making it mandatory for him to use one for endorsement purposes. This is Tiger Woods, arguably the greatest golfer of all time. He will use whatever putter he wants to use.
The real reasoning behind the putter switch has to do with two things. No. 1, Tiger mentions that he always has problems with slower greens. According to him, the current putter he is using comes off hotter off the blade. However, the real reasoning behind the putter switch is this: it's a heel shafted putter. This works hand in hand with the things he and Sean Foley have been working on.
Recall back to the earlier stages of Tiger's swing change, when he mentioned that he is reworking everything, including the way he releases the club on chips and on putts. Foleys believes with the golf swing, just before impact, no matter what club is being used, the club will "appear" to be slightly open, work its way back to square, and then release, meaning the toe of golf club passes the heel of the golf club.
The heel shafted putter makes it much easier to get this sensation of the toe passing through the heel after impact. As opposed to someone like Zach Johnson, whose putter shaft goes directly into the center of the putter head. This promotes a very straight back and straight through type stroke. What most amateur golfers fail to realize is that certain putters promote certain types of strokes. Most people just go into a store and buy whatever putter they think has the appropriate weight or feel.
-- Gabe Rickards, (PGA of America golf professional)
Harig: This is probably too technical of a discussion for this venue, but a couple of points that are meant to neither dispute or confirm the views of Mr. Rickards pertaining to the intricacies of putting.
Tiger might very well use whatever putter he chooses -- but not if he is contractually obligated to use another one. Club contracts are structured in different ways, and often allow for some leeway with wedges, putters and drivers. Others had speculated that Nike mandated he use the putter because they stuck by him, but there is no indication that is the case.
It is true that Woods has said he likes the way the Nike putter comes off faster, which is particularly important on greens that he feels are slower. He has always liked fast greens. And Woods very well might like this putter for how it fits in with Foley's teachings. But Woods first switched to it last summer at the British Open, before he started working with Foley.
Would it speed up play if they required everyone to putt out when they reach the greens? In other words, the first to putt does so until he's finished. It seems to me they waste a lot of time going back and forth. [It] seems quicker if they just went on and finished.
-- Nancy Plummer
Harig: "Continuous putting'' is allowed in stroke play and would seem to be an excellent way to speed up play. A player who putts up near the hole often marks to get out of the way of others, and this process takes time. From 1966 to 1969, the USGA actually mandated continuous putting in its stroke-play events as a way to speed up play.
(In a recent Golf Digest article, former USGA executive director David Fay cites the USGA's mandate and the excellent example of Arnold Palmer running his first putt 6 feet by the hole in the final round of the 1966 U.S. Open where he gave up a big lead to Billy Casper, who then had a 25-footer to win. Instead of marking, Palmer had to first putt his 6-footer, which he made, and when Casper 2-putted, they were tied; Casper won a playoff the next day.)
The rule meant that you could only mark your ball on a green once. If you ran your first putt several feet by, you had to putt again -- without marking -- even if it wasn't your turn, unless you were stepping in another player's line. Of course, continuous putting would not mean that a player still couldn't stalk the next putt from every angle.
Have a question? Send it to Bob Harig's mailbag at BobHESPN@gmail.com to see whether it gets used next week.
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