SI Vault
L. Jon Wertheim
June 14, 2004
While the ATP's top talent travels the world, the PGA has built a global behemoth in the U.S.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
June 14, 2004

Different Strokes For Different Sports

While the ATP's top talent travels the world, the PGA has built a global behemoth in the U.S.

View CoverRead All Articles

Though their respective headquarters are half a mile apart in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., the PGA Tour and the ATP have dramatically different global models. Just ask pro golfer Stuart Appleby and pro tennis player Todd Wood-bridge, neighbors in the central Florida enclave of Isleworth, who were discussing their spring playing schedules recently. Appleby was headed to PGA events he could reach in an hour or less by private jet: Orlando, Jacksonville, Augusta and Charlotte. Woodbridge was off to pack a submarine-sized duffel bag before embarking by commercial airline on the ATP's swing through Monte Carlo, Rome and Hamburg.

Partly by necessity (tennis interest in any one country isn't great enough to sustain a year-round tour there) and partly to accommodate its workforce (players from six continents infiltrated last year's Top 10 at various times), the ATP has become increasingly international, scattering its 65 sanctioned events from Doha, Qatar, to Chennai, India, to Vina del Mar, Chile. It's not uncommon for a pro to compete in a dozen countries throughout the year. "Our players come from everywhere, and we feel [the placement of] our events should reflect that," says Mark Miles, the ATP's CEO.

The PGA, on the other hand, is a domestic concern, its events effectively confined to North America. "The world's top players have gravitated to the Tour," says the Tour's co-chief operating officer, Ed Moorhouse, whose membership of 225 includes 71 international players. "We put on first-class experiences for our competitors, and of course, the purse levels are higher than on other tours around the world."

In fact, the PGA's centralized approach has given it global dominion. The circuits in Asia, Europe and Australia are usually left with fields bereft of big-time stars—and, consequently, of big-time sponsors. A few international golfers, including Ernie Els, remain card-carrying members of multiple tours, but others face a dilemma: Uproot to the U.S. or stay close to home and compete for lesser purses with a nagging sense that any success is diminished. "When Colin Montgomerie plays in Europe, he has to beat seven players," says one PGA veteran. "When he plays here, he has to beat 77."

The ATP has no such worries, but the vagabond existence can make it hard for the players to develop identities. In the U.S. you can flip on the tube any weekend afternoon and odds are good you'll find a live golf tournament; it's hard to broadcast tennis with such consistency from distant and ever-changing time zones. And when, say, third-ranked Carlos Moya of Spain plays only a small fraction of his tournaments in the U.S., is it any wonder his profile here is so low? "On the one hand, being absolutely global and organized as a worldwide circuit makes it hard to achieve deep penetration in any one market," says Miles. "On the other hand, it's a very broad base of popularity. The net result is arguable."

Miles concedes that the ATP has considered taking a page from the PGA and dividing into an Americas Tour, a European Tour and a tour for Asian and Australian players. The top players from all the circuits would converge at the four Grand Slams. Likewise, PGA Tour executives are wrestling with the prospect of expanding their global reach without spreading the property too thin. "We want to grow globally," says Moorhouse. "But we want to do it cooperatively with the other tours."