Anyone for round-trip airfare?
This week's 84 Lumber Classic of Pennsylvania is in golf's dead zone, a time when tournaments on the PGA Tour scramble to find relevance.
It isn't enough anymore to put up a $5-million purse and expect everyone to show up. And when you follow the Ryder Cup and precede the American Express Championship in Ireland ... well, what are you supposed to do?
How about come up with one of the all-time perks ever offered on the PGA Tour?
This is a deal that is extraordinary, even for people who supposedly don't have to worry about money and transportation.
Any player who competes at this week's tournament in remote Farmington, Pa., and is also eligible for next week's World Golf Championship event will receive round-trip airfare.
|Where they're playing|
84 Lumber Classic
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort (7,032 yards, par 72).
$4.2 million (Winner: $756,000)
Thursday: 3:30-6 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Friday: 3:50-6 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Saturday: 3:30-5:30 p.m ET (ESPN)
Sunday: 3-6 p.m. ET (ESPN)
It made David Toms take notice. The 2001 PGA champion who played in the Ryder Cup last week is one of three U.S. team members who decided to play in Pennsylvania because of the perk. He said a $40,000 value was too good to pass up.
"We're looking at dealing with a challenging date for our tournament,'' said 84 Lumber Classic tournament director Eric Mehl. "Those two events on either side of us dominate the landscape for the top players. We wanted to put together a program that the tour approved and fell within the rules. ... The players thought it was a good idea.''
Good idea? You bet. First-class round-trip airfare for six people? Mehl would not disclose how much it would cost to charter the plane, but it must be considerably more than the standard fare of free tickets to sporting events and complimentary meals that tournaments typically shower upon players.
"We did look at taking up our purse and what would be more effective,'' Mehl said of the $4.2-million purse. "We thought it would be more effective to do this program.''
The only problem with the tour approving such a deal is it ramps up the pressure on other events to something similar. Simple math says PGA Tour players cannot play every event.
There are 43 weeks of official tournament golf. Aside from the majors, World Golf Championships, the Players Championship and the Tour Championship, the top players are left with numerous choices for a few spots in their schedules.
The 84 Lumber offer comes dangerously close to an appearance fee, which the PGA Tour does not permit. But the tour signed off on the arrangement, perhaps knowing that one of its own would be better served.
Pick somebody who lets Tiger do it his way. Pick someone who consults Woods and asks his opinion on partners and makes him part of the process. Heck, let Woods pick the two at-large selections. Anything to get him on board.
To be fair, Woods didn't play poorly last week at Oakland Hills during the 18½ to 9½ loss to the Europeans. But the U.S. needs him fully committed to the challenge when the Ryder Cup goes to Ireland.
That means a captain such as Mark O'Meara, Woods' best friend on tour, or maybe even Fred Couples, a laid-back person who would no doubt defer to Tiger. Other players respect Woods and might even fall in line if he shows more of a passion for the matches. Perhaps it would trickle down.
What does the U.S. have to lose?
|Got a question about the PGA Tour? Ask ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig, who will answer your inquiries in each installment of This Week in Golf.
Q. I always wondered why the Australians seem to be one of the closest threats to American golf supremacy despite their much smaller population. With players like Adam Scott, Mark Hensby, Stuart Appleby and Robert Allenby, they seem to be on the rise. I think it would be interesting to see a four-way Ryder Cup-type tournament with teams from U.S., Australia, Europe and the rest of the world. Do you think it will happen?
A. In a word, no. There is already an avenue to include Australians as part of the International team in the Presidents Cup. The Ryder Cup format of Europe vs. the United States won't change, not even the idea of having the winner take on the International squad. The golf organization would never go for anything that didn't include a United States squad.
Q. Much has been written about Tiger Woods' golf game. Why is the media so caught up in his relationship with his fiancee, Elin Nordegren? I don't recall this kind of attention given to other players when it involves their personal life.
A. It has to do with Woods' stature in the game and the way in which he dominated. Every aspect of his game and life is dissected unlike other players. It might seem unfair, but the huge endorsement contracts, the television ratings he produces, the attention he brings to the sport mean that Woods will endure such scrutiny. It is the price of fame. His relationship with Nordegren and pending marriage might have nothing to do with how he performs on the course. Or everything.
Q. How are handicaps calculated?
Q. If you're on the putting green, address the ball, begin your stroke and either, in the backswing or forward swing, hit the putting surface with the putter before the putter strikes the ball, is that a penalty? If so, how many strokes?
Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.