A funny thing happened this past weekend on the PGA TOUR: Ben Curtis, winless since 2006, won an event where he very well could have been one of the bigger names in the field. That's right; Ben "I Almost Lost My TOUR Card" Curtis was one of a few standouts at the Valero Texas Open.
Meanwhile, Lee Westwood, the third-ranked player in the world, successfully defended his title at the Indonesian Masters, a tournament he likely would not have even played in had it not been for the appearance fee he was paid to attend. As a result, the Indonesian Masters became a strong ratings competitor to the Valero Texas Open, all because of one name golf fans everywhere recognize.
How does any of this make any sense?
PGA TOUR event sponsors include some of the biggest names in business. Valero, Sony, Honda, Accenture, so on and so on. Needless to say, these companies have cash and they are willing to spend it. So why not set aside funding to help market your event much more effectively than running ads on a billboard or in a newspaper?
According to the Golf Channel's Mercer Baggs, the fact that the PGA TOUR does not allow for paying players to compete in an event is downright maddening. "If it needs, or sponsor Valero wants to pay top players to entice them to compete, they should be allowed to do so. It's ridiculous that an event on the PGA TOUR should battle the Indonesian Masters for attention because the latter is allowed to buy Lee Westwood's services for a week. The PGA TOUR needs to embrace a capitalist mindset and allow tournaments all avenues to compete against one another. This isn't Russia. Is this Russia? No, because the Russian Open allows appearance fees."
Obviously, bringing the bigger names to a tournament like the Valero Texas Open would help beef up television ratings and ticket sales for the event. The obvious tradeoff, however, would potentially dissatisfy the players already in the field ... like Ben Curtis.
These "off tournaments" tend to be a time when lower-ranked players have an opportunity to capture glory (and a beefy paycheck) without the worry of bigger names stealing their thunder. Let's face it folks: there is a reason why Ben Curtis had not won a golf tournament in over six years. Now that he has, I would also venture to guess he will be looking forward to the Valero Texas Open each year, just as long as the field remains consistently mediocre (no offense, Ben).
But if a tournament in Indonesia is allowed to rent the services of one of the world's best golfers, why can't a tournament in the good ol' U.S. of A.?