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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Gossip About the Dozen

You may have heard about the reduced start requirements for the PGA Tour in 2013. So far I've only seen Rex Hoggard reporting on it.

In case you haven't heard, here's the skinny: Because of the changes to the Tour taking place next year -- the new "wraparound" schedule that will start the 2014 season after the FedExCup Playoffs -- the 2013 season will only be 9 months long. Largely to make sure that the guys promoted from the Tour and the last edition of Q-School get enough starts to try and keep their cards, the Tour is reducing the number of starts required to maintain voting privileges from 15 to 12.

They're doing some other things as well, such as asking events to expand their fields temporarily, to try and help the new guys during the shortened season.

However, the topic of discussion has been whether this reduction might be continued past 2013 -- perhaps as a response to the Euro Tour's decision to let team events (Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, Seve Cup) count against their tour requirements. (They only require 13 events for membership as it is.) The thinking is that the tours are competing for the best players and may reduce requirements to induce dual membership.

Hoggard said on Morning Drive that he didn't believe the reduction would extend beyond 2013.

I suspect he's correct. I don't see how reducing requirements will induce players to take dual memberships when the main issue seems to be travel time around the globe. McIlroy has already said that he tired himself out this year with too much traveling, although I think that should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, Rory relocated to the US this year, which is a major strain in and of itself without including the travel time for tournaments.

The buzz is that this whole thing could represent the beginnings of the "world tour" idea that's been debated since Greg Norman suggested it two decades back.

But this overlooks the main issue. The world tour is here, folks... at least for the big names. The four majors and three of the WGCs are the heart of it, being official events on both tours. (I suspect the WGC-HSBC Champions in China will become official on the PGA Tour before long.) If you're good enough to qualify for these seven events, you currently need only 8 PGA Tour events and 6 European Tour events -- a total of just 21 events -- to maintain dual membership. (For 2013 you can reduce that total to 18, with that one-year 12-event minimum on the PGA Tour.)

Reducing the event requirement just doesn't make sense if you're trying to draw players to your events rather than their events. Reducing the requirements merely allows the best players to cherry-pick the top events on each tour, which ultimately hurts your tour. Just think about how much trouble the PGA Tour has had trying to get the big names to play smaller events on their own tour!

If dual membership is the goal here, it seems more logical to co-sponsor enough events to fulfill most (not all) of the requirements, so players need only play two or three other events on each tour to make that tour's minimums. The key here is which tournaments you co-sponsor.

Let's assume that eventually the four majors and four WGCs give you 8 "world tour" events. Each tour should set their minimum at 15 events and pick a couple of mid-tier events to co-sponsor, making 12 "world tour " events. (I suspect those mid-tier events would soon become very desirable targets for sponsors!) Now players would only need to pick three other events on each tour to fulfill their minimums, for a total of only 18 events. (12 "world tour" events plus 3 PGA events plus 3 Euro events.)

This plan isn't perfect, of course -- you still need some way to get big name players to an occasional small event, and you need some way to sort out who gets in those mid-tier events since you'd have more players (from both sides of the pond) competing for entry. But this gives the best ET players an incentive to play in the US more often, and most of the big-name US players already play 3 or 4 overseas events in addition to their PGA Tour commitments.

The LPGA and LET already seem to have figured this out. I suspect it's only a matter of time before the guys catch on as well.

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