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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Not-So-Happy Endings at the Magic Kingdom

Well, today is the day. The PGA winds up its official season and a lot of players will go home without their card for next year. In addition, everybody is talking about whether we'll ever see Tiger play well again (or Phil, for that matter) and how that will change the Tour in 2011.

The fact is, the Tour is changing in a big way and nobody seems to be paying any attention. It's not just the big names that are struggling, but the former big(gish) names that we're all used to seeing.

It's easy to overlook this change, because we see quite a few of those bigger names continue to play without really thinking about why they can play. Even Golf Channel forgets; earlier in the week they talked about Davis Love's win at Disney back in 2008 and how it was nice if not a big deal for him... but it WAS a big deal. Here's a quick explanation from the "List of golfers with most PGA Tour wins" entry at Wikipedia:
Accumulating 20 wins is significant, because it is one of the requirements for "lifetime membership" on the PGA Tour. This means that the golfer does not need to requalify for membership on the tour each year by finishing in the top 125 on the money list, or through an exemption for tournament victories. Many golfers struggle to do this through their forties, and go through a hiatus in their career before they qualify for the Champions Tour, but those with 20 wins avoid this problem. However, lifetime members are required to maintain a certain (relatively modest) standard of play to retain their playing privileges: when they can no longer do so, they are moved into the "Past champions" membership category, effectively becoming honorary members.
That Disney win was DL3's 20th. Because he won it, we'll continue to see Davis play at a number of events for as long as he wants... and his name is one that many fans tune in to follow. Others won't be so lucky. Let me give you the list of "under-50s" with 20 wins according to that Wikipedia article:
  • Tiger Woods
  • Phil Mickelson
  • Vijay Singh
  • Davis Love III
In the immortal words of Porky Pig, that's all, folks. Ernie Els is two back, Jim Furyk is four back, and nobody else is closer than 13 wins. A lot of names you're used to seeing are falling away... names like Chris DiMarco, John Daly, Rich Beem, and Brad Faxon are all outside 150 on the money list, which means they have no status on Tour. We've been losing more and more of these players over the past few years... and the loss of these "lesser" names also affects the Tour.

I don't expect you to sit down and have a good cry about it. It's the way things work, after all, and the Tour (all the tours, really) are about "what have you done for me lately" and all those other cliches we throw around. But I think we should remember that "the Tour" is not just about the big names, but also about the less-famous players they build their reputations playing against. Many of these will be missed, and some fans will lament that "the Tour isn't what it used to be" without ever realizing why they feel that way.

In the grander scheme of things, life will go on. Many of the players who lose their cards today will just trot over to "the tour formerly known as the Nationwide" and work the kinks out of their games, while the new graduates from that tour and the upcoming Q-School will take their shot at becoming the next big name. Some of those who didn't qualify will bide their time waiting for the Champions Tour, and others will pick up a mic or a briefcase and move on. But the 2011 season will be substantially different from the 2010 season... and it won't be just because of Tiger and Phil.

All I want is for us to remember that our sport isn't only about a few big names. For lack of a better analogy, for every Justin Timberlake who survives leaving the boyband that made him a household name, dozens of other singers just say "bye, bye, bye..."

After the bloodletting is done at Disney today, take a moment to remember all those other players before they're gone for good. They helped make the Tour what it is, even if they never won a single tournament.

5 comments:

  1. "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb ?" - always a riddle of the obvious.

    In golf, we have "how many guys finish in the top 125 on the money list every year ?" The answer...125. There are no ties. Someone has to be 126.

    Better check the money lists for past years. It's been 2007 since any two of the four you mentioned have been inside the top 125. In '07, Beem and DiMarco were between 100 and 120.

    BUT - have any of them disappeared from sight ? Nope. DiMarco has been the least visible because of his back. Faxon has become known more for his (not so good) TV analyst work than his golf. (if he could get himself on some sort of legal upper to make it sound like he was awake - he might get good some day - but he shouldn't be in the broadcasting major leagues right away) Beem has been seen a couple of times this year - but mostly it's been pretty bad - missing 6 cuts in 11 starts plus one WD. And Daly is...well...Daly. He played better than he has in some recent years - but it's still more fun to see the girlfriend in those Loudmouth outfits than it is to watch him play on most days.

    Here's the thing - these four, and a handful of other names we're used to watching will still be around next year. Beem will be at Q-school, but they will all play a handful of events because sponsors like having their names in the field. But it won't be what we remember seeing. More often than not, it's better to call it quits before people start looking at you for how you're playing now and not for the greatness you had in years past.

    Remember watching Joe Namath in a Rams uniform ? Johnny Unitas in Chargers powder blue ? Willie Mays as a Met ? Not pretty.

    Ok - one more for fun...

    Why do firemen wear red suspenders ? To keep their pants up ! :-D

    And yes - I'll miss seeing the guys I enjoyed watching 10-15 years ago.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Some of these guys are still hanging around because they have marginal exemptions they can use -- for example, the past champion's exemption. David Duval used an exemption or two while trying to get his game back on track.

    But these exemptions eventually run out, and many of these players won't get their games back in good enough shape to get back on tour. You said, "More often than not, it's better to call it quits before people start looking at you for how you're playing now and not for the greatness you had in years past" and I don't disagree with you.

    My point is that, whatever the reason they leave, it changes the Tour just as it does when the big names leave. It just seemed to be a good time to remember those players.

    ReplyDelete
  3. But isn't that one of those really obvious statements ? You could just as easily say that the new talent changes the Tour - but if you're going to pick names of guys who have been to 20 guys, you have to pick young guys with top 20 potential like Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jamie Lovemark....

    Face it - getting older can be a real bee-otch

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sometimes the obvious gets overlooked and needs to be said.

    And I'm not saying that the young guys are a bad thing, just that fans often get comfortable with the "old guard" and sometimes stop watching so much once their comfort zone vanishes. Again -- saying the obvious -- I just thought it was a good time to remember those players who are moving on.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This should make you feel a little better...

    http://www.golfweek.com/news/2010/nov/17/dimarco-play-11-career-money-exemption/

    ReplyDelete