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Last week the PGA Tour e-mailed the details of a new policy that forces players to schmooze with tournament sponsors next year or lose their spots in the field. It's an expanded version of the rule that required us to play in the Wednesday pro-ams. Going forward, an event's 42 highest-ranked players will participate in the pro-am. The next 10 will be alternates, and the next 40 or so who don't get into the pro-am will have to spend 90 minutes at a sponsor function on Tuesday or Wednesday.
We know we have a bad economy and have to do something to help the companies that write our checks. And it's not that we don't appreciate the sponsors. But to tell guys that 52 of you may play and another 30 are on the hook to visit sponsors—that's a nightmare. I can tell you that every player would rather endure a five- or six-hour pro-am round than put on a happy face and hang out at a two-hour dinner.
It may not sound like much, but you're there to entertain, and you have to be "on" the entire time. And you can't no-show or leave early or hide in the bathroom, since I'm sure Commissioner Finchem's disciples will be taking attendance.
Part of the problem is that the policy is not going to affect the top players. It's the guys who fall between 50 and 110 on the money list who are going to have to do it most of the time. Those guys have to play more often to keep their cards—25 to 28 times a year instead of the 16 to 18 tournaments people like Tiger and Phil play—and they'll make more tent visits than a scoutmaster. They'll be burned out by June. For the first time in history guys will be begging to play in the pro-am. One sponsor dinner is O.K., but two dozen of them? Not so good.
If you finish 90th on the money list, you make a lot of cash, but that doesn't mean you want to be a Tour puppet every Wednesday. The Tour keeps looking for more control over us but won't take steps to make us employees. I wouldn't be surprised if this move revives talk of a players' association.
If the Tour really wants to help sponsors, it should start by treating them with more respect. Take Turning Stone, which has put up $6 million a year for the last three years to sponsor an underappreciated Fall Series event (the Turning Stone Resort Classic). Why doesn't the Tour move that event up in the schedule, maybe to the week in July that the U.S. Bank vacated or the week off during the FedEx Cup? To me, that would be a nicer way of saying thank you.
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