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July 06, 2012

Truth & Rumors: Were Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson paid to play in the Greenbrier Classic?

Posted at 12:23 PM by Mark Dee | Categories: Greenbrier, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Truth & Rumors

Pay-for-Play on the PGA?
An interesting article by Steve Elling over at CBS Sports breaks down the expanding hidden market for teasing big names to play Tour stops. According to Elling, tournaments with big budgets are smashing the proverbial piggy to draw top players in the guise of "service" contracts and "ambassador" programs.

Welcome to July 4 week at the Greenbrier Classic, a third-year event that has become the living, breathing embodiment of the American way. Which is to say, when in doubt, throw a wheelbarrow of cash out there on the table and hope somebody takes the bait.

Indeed, Greenbacksbrier this week has a field that includes the two biggest draws on the tour, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who seemingly stand to make a healthy chunk of change by doing little more than showing up -- regardless of how they play.

Granted, the contract particulars are as hazy as the air during a Civil War battle, but the smoke surrounding the Woods and Mickelson appearances has been hard to avoid. While the deals and dollar figures remain unconfirmed -- and it will likely stay that way -- multiple sources have repeatedly cited the same numbers: Woods is drawing $1.5 million and Mickelson is getting $1 million.

While legal in much of the golfing world, the PGA Tour outlawed appearance fees. Which, of course, isn't what these are. Of course. Players are required to do other, high-wage activities, ranging from running junior clinics, to attending corporate dinners, to, in the case of the Zurich Classic, playing an old-timey, hickory-shafted exhibition before the tournament (which, actually, sounds pretty great to me).

The problem, judging from the number of anonymous tournament directors willing to gush to Elling, is that small stops can't keep up. Big names tend to play a limited schedule. That schedule is influenced by where they get the highest "incentive" to play. If you can't provide equivalent incentives, they won't show. And fans won't either.

The fear here is that fees will exacerbate the existing tournament caste system the Tour has been working to mitigate for the last few years. But is it fair for top guns to get something sweet in order to compete? Well, we just pass along the rumors. If you're so inclined, drop your thoughts in the comments section below.

A Really Big Break
The 18th installment of the Golf Channel's The Big Break, held at the Greenbrier, will have stakes the show hasn't seen in years: a spot in an actual PGA Tour event.

According to a press release issued by the Golf Channel, the winner will get a spot in next year's Greenbrier Classic. And get to spend a bunch of time at the Greenbrier, which anyone watching this week's Tour stop probably wants to do.

The show was produced in June, and is due to air October second. Somebody already knows where they'll be this time next year. We'll just have to wait to see who.

LeDuff-ing his way through Detroit
About 12 miles Southeast of Oakland Hills Country Club, the close-cropped host of nine major championships, an abandonded fairground goes to seed on Detroit's North Side. That's where Pulitzer Prize winner Charlie LeDuff, reporting for FOX 2 of Detroit, teed off to commence the 18-mile par 3,168 he mapped out to span the city of Detroit.

LeDuff golfed his way through the Motor City for the mythic "I Heart the D Open." He shot a 2,525. As the ten-ish minute video shows, that's not the point:

Put aside the stunts and staging, LeDuff's gallows humor is as startling as golf's spectacle in Detroit's fields of ruin. A great piece on a good walk, spoiled.

Back to the Future
But this is T&R, and we couldn't send you into the weekend on a note like that. To make ammends: According to Nerd Reactor, a website I implicitly trust on the subject, Nintendo is re-releasing NES Open, it's 1991 classic golf title! If you've forgotten just how monumental that game was -- and just how versatile an individual Mario continues to be -- watch the video below for a refresher.



That chimey 8-bit choir still rings in my head when I stand over big putts. I have no idea what the game can be played on, but I'm sure Nintendo's website will tell you all about that.

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