Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Price of Globehopping Tours

Jiyai ShinThe Constructivist just did a post over at Mostly Harmless about Jiyai Shin's decision to focus on the JLPGA in 2014. Like Tony Jesselli (who posted in the comments) I was a bit surprised to hear it... at first.

On reflection, it seems to be part of a greater trend.

Several LPGA and LET players have left their respective tours, citing desires to have a family or pursue other interests or just deciding that it's too much work for their "return on investment." And I'm not just talking Annika and Lorena here, you know.

Remember the buzz when Steve Stricker announced his reduced schedule in early 2013? Steve not only intended to cut his globe-trotting -- he didn't even play the Open Championship -- but he also cut his domestic schedule as well. He said he needed to be fresher for the remaining events he played. Ironically, it worked better than most people expected and left players joking that perhaps they should "semi-retire" as well.

In fact, Phil Mickelson has already said that he intends to do the same, and we may soon see other players -- both male and female -- following his lead.

For those of us who play most of our golf in a single county -- or at worst a single state -- the idea that golf could be so tiring seems silly. We think about how exciting it would be to play in Hawaii one week, California the next, take a short tour through Florida, then stop over in Mexico on our way to Scotland.

But ANYTHING can become a job after a while, no matter how much you love it. Just ask the parents of any three-year-old!

As golf becomes more global, will careers begin to shorten as players simply tire of all the travel? It's true that private jets are an option for the top players -- and "community jets" like NetJet for the next level down -- but time catches up to us all. And as you get older, spending more and more time away from home isn't always so attractive. Not every player is as driven as Gary Player!

Jiyai Shin cited fatigue and injuries as factors in her decision. The YonhapNews story that TC referenced also mentions that her primary corporate sponsor won't be renewing in 2014, perhaps adding another reason. Unlike the PGA Tour, where wins pay so much more than any other tour, it may be that she needs that money to make all the travel profitable. (I don't know, I'm just speculating.)

But it's becoming clear that the new global nature of golf -- something that we've all applauded -- may have an unexpected dark side. What other surprises might this new paradigm have in store for us? Will even more pros trim their schedules? Will the organizations that run events have to make changes to attract them... or could this set off a new decline in the number of tournaments played? This new twist to the game bears watching over the next few years.

The photo came from this page at titleist.com.

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