The Rest Coast Tour
The Silly Season is over, but the joke is on the West Coast. For the next seven weeks the PGA Tour will hopscotch between Arizona, California and Hawaii, while the best players in the world will either be resting up at home or playing for six-figure appearance fees in Australia and the Far East. How desperate are West Coast organizers for marquee names? Arnold Palmer will play in as many of their events as Greg Norman, Nick Price and Ernie Els—combined.
Blame the problem in part on the glut of made-for-TV events in November and December. The world's top-ranked players use those months to scoop up the easy money offered by unofficial tournaments and exhibitions. Many of those players then use January and February to take a break before rejoining the weekly grind of the official season, which now stretches to the end of October, while others continue to play non-Tour events for guaranteed cash. This is what the first two months on the Tour have become: John Daly, the British Open champion and the game's biggest gate attraction, will play in only one more West Coast event but has committed to the Johnnie Walker Asian Classic in Singapore later this month, followed by a three-week schedule of tournaments in Australia. He is being guaranteed somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million (plus expenses), which should keep him in chocolate-chip muffins and Diet Coke for a while.
"I have a horrible record on the West Coast," Daly says. "When I play there, I don't have any confidence going into Florida. The golf courses don't suit me. And look at what Norman does. He only plays in, what, one event on the West Coast? And he's winning the money title every year."
Daly is not alone. U.S. Open winner Corey Pavin, who grew up in Los Angeles, plans to take off the next six weeks. His only Tour start between now and The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, Fla., in late March will probably be at the Nissan Open in L.A. "Players used to come here [La Costa] and say they were rusty," Pavin says. "Now they come in and say they're tired."
Pavin knows firsthand. He spent November and December cashing in on his newfound fame, pocketing almost $1.5 million after earning more than $1.3 million in official money over the previous 10 months.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is taking a hard look at the problem. Tournament sponsors are not happy, nor are the television networks, although they helped create the postseason monster. Finchem says one action he is considering is restricting the number of releases the Tour will grant players for second-season events. That would not sit well with some.
"I wouldn't be in favor of that," says Pavin. "But I wouldn't want to do anything to hurt the Tour. I play 21 events a year here. It's a matter of scheduling. If I don't have time off, I lose my concentration, my focus."
The question is, are players like Pavin focusing on the right thing?