Tour golf is dead. Tiger has gone home to lick his wounds and now the golfing world is in mourning. There are many out there who pretend they can fill his shoes, but the sad truth is they cannot. I want to talk to you about the U.S. Open. An injured golf pro and a 45-year-old who's prepping for the Senior (oops, Champions) Tour duke it out for the national championship. The gist is this: There are no contenders when Tiger is teeing it up. The super-elite of the PGA Tour, as designated by our famous broadcasters, have yet to turn up. We have been waiting for Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Aaron Baddeley, Sergio Garcia and a whole host of others to at least compete against this injured golf pro.
Here is my take on why the PGA Tour is flat when Tiger doesn't play; the problem lies with the sponsorship of these players. They wake up on the first of January with $1 million to $10 million in their pockets and they haven't even played their first shot yet. What incentive is there for them to win? I think the corporations who sponsor these "superstars" should redesign their contracts to be performance-based. You receive your check when you step into the winner's circle. Let's be honest, working pros like myself who stand on the tee all day long would love to have a performance-based program, clothing contracts, courtesy cars, etc. Who wouldn't?
The moral of the story is this: Players aren't hungry enough to win. They have become fat cats climbing their way to media success on the backs of others. With the exception of Tiger and a few others, athletes today are not earning their keep. I'll never forget my first PGA Tournament in 1967, the Gallaghers Open Championship, where I arrived at the club on my bike with my clubs on my back. I was stopped by a guard and told "players only" for this entrance. Oh, how have times changed!
(Photo: Robert Beck/SI)