Perhaps you saw Ian Poulter pour in his par putt on the final hole at Mission Hills yesterday for his first victory of 2012 and thought, “Surely, this must be the defining story of the tournament!”
Mr. Giles Morgan, Group Head of Sponsorship at HSBC, secured that distinction on Wednesday before the tournament even started with his whiny lamentation which began, "We are delighted to have 13 of the world’s top 20 here, but of course we’re disappointed not to have the two top players in the world.”
The villain, if there is one, is appearance fees—more specifically, the fact that such fees are not permitted at PGA Tour-sanctioned events. As such, both McIlroy and Woods elected to play in an 18-hole exhibition match on October 29 at Jinsha Lake for a reported $3 million in combined appearance fees.
For his part, Poulter won $1.2 million for his victory at the meaningless four-round WGC-HSBC. Assuming a minimum of one day of practice and preparation at the course, Poulter grossed just over a million dollars for five days of competitive golf. Tiger, on the other hand, made $2 million playing 18 holes of exhibition golf with his buddy Rory McIlroy.
If you found yourself in Tiger’s Nike TW 13s, which event would you play in?
The problem with Morgan’s statement is multifold. Firstly, he ought to be smart enough to hype the event he has and the strong field playing in it, rather than fixating on what’s lacking or taking to his soapbox. Additionally, he disrespects the “13 of world’s top 20” who played in the tournament by saying, essentially, “You guys are great, but you’re all playing second fiddle to Tiger and Rory.”
The fact that the previous is true from a marketing and sponsorship standpoint doesn’t entitle Morgan to actually say it.
As Geoff Shackelford notes, the year-round professional golf season and the prohibition on appearance fees in PGA Tour sanctioned events compel players to play fewer events internationally, and further, to tailor their schedules to accommodate tournaments which pay appearance fees. All of this, rather than the abstract “obligation to sponsors” which Morgan values, will dictate player schedules.
It’s simple economics and rational self-interest.
If Morgan wanted to make a stand, he should have used his bully pulpit to point out the absurdity of the fact that the PGA Tour’s puritanical stance on appearance fees compelled Rory and Tiger to play in a ludicrous exhibition spectacle rather than a legitimate Tour-sanctioned golf tournament and that such a system is ultimately detrimental to the game.