PGA on a death march

The PGA Tour is in trouble.  It has hitched its wagon to a horse that, right now and for the foreseeable future, isn’t going anywhere.  With the tumultuous year Tiger Woods has had, T.V. viewing of PGA tour events is down as much as 60%.  That ringing sound you hear is the death bell for the PGA as a viable player in the American sports landscape.  Golf may be going the way of professional tennis, the buffalo, and my hair (going, going, gone).

This past week’s PGA Championship tournament ended in such controversy that the entire golf world (and some of those outside the golf world) are abuzz with opinion.  I’ll try to spare you the mind-numbing details, but basically a golfer touched his club to the ground in a section of the course that you are not supposed to touch your club to the ground.

Now– the devil is in the mind-numbing details, but suffice it to say this guy really got hosed.  To be fair to the “game of golf” it is a rule and it was communicated, albeit in a confusing and inefficient way.  Again, trying to spare you all the details, suffice it to say the neither the player, nor the caddie, nor the PGA rules official who was with them knew he was in a place where he should not have touched his club to the ground.

If golf wants to continue its slow slide into irrelevance it ought to keep all the rules the way they are and continue to enforce them to the letter of the law, rather than in the spirit in which they were written.  The PGA tour needs to do something (other than promote Tiger Woods) to bring people back to golf.  Below are a few suggestions:

* Re-write several rules that are archaic and/or just plain stupid: One example:  if you set your putter behind the ball, ready to putt, and the wind blows and moves your ball (typically only applies to the British Open wind conditions) you are deemed to have caused your ball to move and are assessed a penalty.  LAME!

* Market more players.  Tell their story during the tournament (a-la the Olympics, but a little less cheesy).  Push more players to be involved locally as tournaments move from city to city. At this point in time, the golfers have an obligation to play in the “pro-am” of each tournament which is a chance for wealthy businessmen to play with the golfers.  How about those guys spend some time at local courses, giving lessons to kids, or even playing with kids.  According to this research done by the Wall Street Journal, there are fewer and fewer kids picking up and playing golf.  The PGA needs to work with and partner with golf courses around the country to remedy this.  They have their “First Tee” program and that is great.  They need to do more.  Today’s 10 year old is the 25 year old who is going to be watching golf about the time Tiger Woods is transitioning to the Senior Tour.  They need to know more golfers than “Tiger and Phil.”

* Allow the top 10 players in the world to play the entire tournament, regardless of the cut-line: As evidenced by this report from the Wall Street Journal, just because a golfer is a world top-10 player does not mean he will do well and play the weekend, thus drawing eyeballs to the t.v.  The PGA should allow the top-10 players in the world to play all four rounds of golf and be exempt from the cut.

Do you have any ideas for the PGA tour?

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