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PGA Tour Confidential
Michael Bamberger
December 14, 2009
SI convened a meeting of its golf experts—senior writers Michael Bamberger, Damon Hack, Alan Shipnuck and Gary Van Sickle—and a PGA Tour pro (who participated on the condition of anonymity) to address the new grooves rule, Tiger's fall from grace, the Great Recession's impact on professional golf and other issues
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December 14, 2009

Pga Tour Confidential

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Hack: Say what you want about the British Open, but Stewart Cink made the shots down the stretch to win and plays well in big events. He's ready to assume a spot in the top three.

Anonymous Pro: Lee Westwood played great all year, contended at the British and the PGA. He's driving it super and has his putting stroke back. He looks as good now as he did early in his career when he practically ran the table in Europe. He'll be the breakout player of 2010 and maybe even snag a major.

THE ECONOMY, STUPID

Van Sickle: Anyone besides me concerned about fallout from the Great Recession?

Shipnuck: The long-term deals the Tour did before the recession helped keep up appearances. As they expire, the 2011 and '12 schedules will be affected, and that will tell the tale. There are two Tours right now: the big events that Tiger plays, and the B-list events, which are going to get hit hard.

Anonymous Pro: When a marquee event can't find a sponsor—and by marquee event I mean one that Tiger supports—that's a major red flag. Buick dropped sponsorship at Torrey Pines, which Tiger plays and wins almost every year, and no sponsor has stepped up.

Shipnuck: I agree that if Torrey Pines can't find a sponsor with Tiger in its pocket, that is scary. There's going to be a contraction on the PGA Tour, no doubt about it.

Hack: Every other business is cutting back, so it would be crazy to think that the Tour won't too. We could lose more sponsors and see things get worse before they get better. No industry is bulletproof.

Anonymous Pro: I'm sure Tim Finchem, the commissioner, understands the depth of the problem, but he'll never admit that we're having trouble. What bothers players is that we're begging for sponsors, yet a couple of years ago we lost one of the best sponsors we've had, Jack Vickers at the International. Instead of working out a deal with Vickers, the Tour ran off a guy who wanted to put up an $8 million or $10 million purse. That was cutting off our nose to spite our face.

Van Sickle: I see the same thing with the lack of respect given to Fall Series events. They've been hung out to dry by the Tour, which acts as if it wants them to go away. Trust me, two years from now the Tour will want them badly.

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