Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Time to stop paying stars tournament appearance money
I won't be popular for saying this, but I believe it's time to look at phasing out tournament appearance fees for the top players. In years gone by, I could understand why these inducements happened as a minority were in the upper bracket.
Today, players are maturing at a younger age. Practice facilities are superb, as are the fitness levels of the competitors. Add to that the business way they go about their chosen profession and their diligence in living their lives correctly, the upper echelon has increased in numbers and on any given week, any one of a hundred players are capable of winning. 

That was not the case a couple of decades ago.
The golf in Qatar was fantastic, as was the HSBC in Abu Dhabi the week before. You couldn't ask for more exciting events with many of the "unheralded" names producing excellence.
Would these tournaments have been poorer if some of the top players in the world ranking were not there?  

You will have your own thoughts on that. I understand sponsors want the very best fields they can have and after all, without sponsors, there are no tournaments.
Should appearance fees be paid to the best performers? I'm in the "no" category. 

They are the best players so they will win many tournaments and accumulate healthy prize money. That's the way it's been since the beginning of time and that's the way it will continue.
I'd like to see the sponsors get together and make payments to top names a thing of the past. If they all stuck together, they could put half of what they were going to pay in "sweeteners" into the prize fund. Let's say then, a 3million euro tournament would then become a 4million event. Then a 4million one would progress to a 5million one, and so on.
Some would say if you don't pay, 'you won't get the big names' and for a short spell, they would be correct. However, would the big names stay at home for long and not play? 

Many of their contracts are geared to where they finish in the world rankings. If they don't play, there are no points and they tumble down that list.
The four majors and four World Golf Championships have prize money of around £50m. The four events that make up the Final Series on the European Tour have a purse of over $30m and there is of course the FedEx Cup riches in the United States, along with first prizes that are regularly over a million dollars.
Add to that the BMW PGA Championship and the French Open and you have another £10m. That's impressive, healthy, and in my opinion, enough to be going on with. Some will say if we took this route in Europe, the big names would all take themselves to the US PGA Tour in America.
Yes they would, but only if they achieved the qualifying criteria. There is no qualifying school in the US now so starting from scratch, a year on the web.Com Tour is one route. But with bigger purses and enhanced events, why would that route appeal?
Another avenue is to achieve enough money from playing in US PGA Tour counting events to surpass a total of around three quarters of a million dollars. To do that, you have to play. Also, the top 20 or so in the world can't just play the majors. To be competitive in them, there is a need to play regularly.
Much is talked about the "silly season" when players go to obscure places with little or no world ranking points. 

The carrot is dangled and they do that solely for money. I'm fine with that, but it shouldn't be at a cost to the platinum and loyal sponsors we are fortunate to have.
Last year, some players were disappointed that to get their bonus at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, they had to play in three of the final four events which would be too tough a schedule, yet some of these players were seen in the weeks ahead flying all over the world chasing the dollar.
It's food for thought. With increased prize money, yet lower output for the sponsor, the big boys would, in time, play as often as they do now, the incentive for the next generation would increase, so would the competition and everyone would start on a level playing field.
My guess is this will not happen, but I think it could work and in the end it would benefit the game of golf both professionally and corporately.
Anyway, I'll leave that with you - back to the Gulf. The only thing missing from last week in Qatar was bigger crowds, but one must remember golf is still relatively new in this part of the world. In the years ahead, this evolving country will continue to grow at pace.
The football stadiums are well under construction ahead of the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Formula One comes to Qatar in the near future and many top sporting events are planned in the months and years ahead. Other golf courses are at the construction stage.
I'm now back in the United Arab Emirates for the 26th playing of the oldest event that makes up the trilogy that is the Desert Swing, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The Emirates course is, as always, looking splendid and if the last fortnight is anything to go by, we should be in for a grand four days in the City of Gold.
Look forward to your company on Thursday morning.

Watch Day 1 of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic live on Sky Sports 4 HD from 6am on Thursday morning.
From Sky Sports   



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