Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Real Tiger Tour

Eric Adelson makes that case that the time could be now for Tiger Woods to form his own global series. (Man, Greg Norman must be PISSED if he is reading this on his $250 million yacht for his honeymoon!) It's not that illogical of an argument, to be frank. But, would Woods want to replicate something like this? Before I try to answer that, let's give Adelson some props with quotes.

Woods is the first athlete in a long time—maybe ever—who doesn't need his league. He is the Oprah of sports—the most likeable athlete alive, according to a Harris poll, and the most successful. He ranks behind only Winfrey in Forbes' latest list of most powerful celebrities, with $115 million in yearly income. And so much of the PGA Tour's financial success comes directly from him.
All true. Now, get into the reality of creating a Tiger Tour:
So if Woods held a handful of his own tournaments a year, all over the planet, who wouldn't want to bail on a smaller PGA event to play? When Tiger turned pro, nine Tour members earned $1 million annually in pay. A decade later, that number is 99. Don't think pro golfers aren't aware how their bread is buttered.

Woods can have IMG produce the events, and the networks would likely line up.

"TV wouldn't be the problem," says former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson. "If Tiger asked to see me, I certainly would take the meeting." And yet the PGA Tour owns Woods' likeness and image whenever he appears on a golf course. With Woods closing in on a record 18 majors, there's simply no reason all that money should leave him and go to a bunch of suits.

"All the PGA Tour is really providing is the umbrella organization," says CNBC sports business analyst Darren Rovell. "The local tournaments run themselves. The scary thing is, it's not that hard to replicate things."
Without a doubt, the networks would be on board for something like this. Adelson points out that the Tour players - using the ole standby Kenny Perry "he is our Tour" quote - know why there were 99 millionaires last year. He also mentions that many players, including Tiger, are probably not fans of the PGA Tour's 15 tournament minimum, restrictions on marketing/imaging rights, limitations on play on international tours, and (just to topple on) that drug testing policy. (A Tiger Tour would likely have drug testing since Woods supported it vehemently.)

Yes, IMG does a particularly lousy job with the Samsung World Championship. But, if they put their mind into something, then they can do a heck of a job with it. Take, for example, the HSBC Women's Champions and HSBC Champions events. They are successful, well-attended, and the men's version benefits dramatically from the lack of Euro Tour restrictions on appearance fees.

Speaking of the Euro Tour, one would have to consider the dynamics of the International Federation of PGA Tours, of which the Euro Tour is part. Tiger has a strong relationship with the UAE - his first course is being built there and he has committed to appear in the Dubai Desert Classic for several years to come. There is still an outside chance that he could accept his Euro Tour card to play in the Dubai World Championship. Would forming a Tiger Tour mean straining the UAE-Euro Tour lovefest? Would the UAE entertain such a thing? Would the European Tour's George O'Grady see this as a chance to one up Tim Finchem by joining forces with the Tiger Tour? All interesting questions.

At the end of it, though, the question is really whether or not this would be worth it to Woods. Adelson mentions that Woods probably is not too keen on playing the minimum 15 PGA Tour events per year. He would probably just rather play the majors and WGCs. So, let's say that there is a Tiger Tour. Would he travel the world to play in his own events given that he may not be too keen on playing in US based events? Maybe - if his Foundation were to be a huge beneficiary.

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