One of the greatest things about golf during the "golden years" of Palmer, Nicklaus, and Player was the fact they marketed the PGA Tour, and they let their own company market themselves.
Flash forward to 2010, while Tiger Woods takes his indefinite leave of absence from golf, the PGA Tour struggles to find new sponsors for struggling tournaments and the only reason people are talking about golf is due to Tiger's "indiscretions."
It seems unlike those stars of yesterday, the face of golf today chooses to let the PGA Tour serve as his marketing platform, taking him to stardom that a golfer can rarely achieve.
Tiger, in his own mind, has officially become bigger than the PGA Tour, and it seems like he is perfectly fine with that.
For years, the PGA Tour has been making Tiger Woods its priority, while Tiger has made himself and the majors his. It seems as though Tiger has become increasingly selfish, and the PGA Tour has now become "The Tiger Tour." (The Golf Channel aired the international tournaments Tiger played in, and attempted to make some sort of series out of them, entitled "Tiger's World Tour")
While the PGA Tour did everything that was necessary to make Tiger the star he is today, and while Tiger made the tour more money than Tim Finchem could imagine, he has failed to market the PGA Tour in the only way that truly matters: showing up to tournaments.
The economy has put a huge strain on the wallets of many key sponsors (including the sponsor of my hometown tournament, Verizon). The lesser known tournaments have become endangered; depriving many fans the opportunity to see the week long show that is the PGA Tour.
I used to live in Endicott, New York, longtime home to the B.C. Open. While not known for being a very prestigious tournament, it was one that the community enjoyed. I have heard many stories from the past about legendary golfers making their mark on the community. I caught my first glimpse of Woods at this very tournament in his only appearance (it was in 1996, at the height of the "This is Tiger Country" sign phase).
Woods failed to appear in Endicott again, and mentioned that "life looked hard" in the suburb of Binghamton.
The B.C. Open was forced off the PGA Tour schedule ten years following the arrival of Tiger due to lack of sponsor support, and when the sponsors started to leave one by one, the PGA Tour was forced to play the event the same week as the Open Championship. Thankfully, it is now the Dick's Sporting Goods Open, a Champions Tour event. Although it is not the stars of today, it is good for the older generations to see the stars of yesterday come back into town.
I moved to Hilton Head, South Carolina in the summer of 1998, and was fortunate enough to see Tiger Woods play in the MCI Heritage (now the Verizon Heritage) the next April. The gallery watching Woods was enormous, bigger than anything I had ever seen before that day.
The kicker is from Monday to the Sunday finale, Woods had that large following. There is something about him that draws people to him, a reason why he has become the international star he is today.
That was Woods' last appearance playing at Harbour Town, and it most likely will be his last ever.
Since 2000, the Heritage of Golf has struggled to find major sponsors (usually gaining one just in the nick of time), and it seems like after 2010, the future of the tournament is in jeopardy.
Woods has manicured his schedule to his liking since he became king of the PGA Tour. He shows up when it is convenient for him, and rarely goes out of his way to help the Tour that made him what he is today.
Legends like Palmer and Nicklaus understood they were not bigger than the game, or the PGA Tour, and traveled to as many tournaments as they could for the sake of the PGA Tour, and due in part to the fact that purses were not nearly as large (but don't be fooled, neither was strapped for cash).
While it is impossible to expect Woods to play week in and week out, why can he not travel to each tournament at least once every four years to help the Tour?
With Tiger playing, the course will be packed with patrons, and the sponsors will see the dollar signs in their future.
The PGA needs to make an effort when Woods returns to get him out there to the lesser known tournaments, not for Woods to expand his name, but for Woods to give back to the Tour which has given him the sky and just about every star in it, as well.
They need to use Tiger as their resource, when for years; Tiger has been using the PGA Tour as his resource.
It is time the PGA Tour got selfish, and it is time that the face of the PGA Tour, and golf in general, starts giving back what he has taken for so many years. That is of course when he resumes his career.
(Note: while other major stars fail to play in the lesser known tournaments, it is Tiger who draws the crowds more than anyone, and it is Tiger who is the face of golf.)