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Wednesday
Mar152017

WGC's The Only Reason Arnold Palmer's Event Faces Hurdles

I think we all hate dwelling on the future of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in the year following The King's passing. But Palmer was a businessman who loved and nurtured this event. So discussing its past, present and future would presumably resonate with him even as he would undoubtedly be uncomfortable taking attention away from the players.

Jeff Babineau did a super job for Golfweek.com summing up Wednesday's ceremony at Bay Hill to remember The King, but also reflected on how far this event has come and where it may go without Palmer.

I loved this anecdote:

The API, which moved to Bay Hill from nearby Rio Pinar (Florida Citrus Open) in 1979, has come quite a long way. The purse has been bumped to $8.7 million, and this week’s winner not only will leave $1.56 million richer, but will receive a three-year PGA Tour exemption, not the usual two a winner grabs.

This week’s event will celebrate the everyday fan who connected with the blue-collar likes of Palmer, with large public grandstands now sitting up close to seven of the course’s greens.

It’s a far cry from Year 1 at the then-named Bay Hill Citrus Classic in 1979, when the makeshift grandstand that sat behind the 18th green was borrowed from nearby Boone High School.

That little nugget is a perfect reminder that is was events like the Bay Hill Citrus Classic, the Western Open, the Los Angeles Open, the Houston Open, the Bob Hope and on and on we can go with 10-12 events that built and stabilized the PGA Tour.

And with too much regularity, the focus of these events revolves around their weaker-than-normal fields, their strange new dates or their difficulty in attracting a sponsor. Nearly all have been adversely effected by many factors, but it's the creation of World Golf Championship events that consistently tops all side-effects.

We all understand the globalization of golf and market forces, but when those forces so adversely impact even an event nurtured by a modern sports legend. it's time for all current players and executives to take a hard look at the tour's purpose. Because if this is, as they say, about playing opportunities and charitable dollars, it's these core founding events that deserve to be treated as kings.

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Reader Comments (11)

" it's time for all current players and executives to take a hard look at the tour's purpose. Because if this is, as they say, about playing opportunities and charitable dollars, it's these core founding events that deserve to be treated as kings."

Exactly!
03.16.2017 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
In retrospect, the WGC that was Doral should have simply moved to Bay Hill. It's sad that events with Jack and Arnold as hosts/boosters are suffering so the most from the WGC. It's also ironic as they were the leverage that created the PGA Tour as its own powerful organization.
03.16.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPABoy
The WGC's share some of the blame, but the Tour does as well due to the short-term focus that they've had regarding their schedule. A great example of this is how they treated the Buick Open, a long standing tournament on Tour and an event that increased the professionalism of PGA Tour events when it started in the 50s (they brought large purses, courtesy cars for pro's, better treatment of pro's and caddies, etc). The Tour could not wait to abandon this highly attended event to chase a large sponsor at the Greenbrier. That replacement event is sparsely populated and subject to the whims of an megarich sponsor. Meanwhile, the community that supported the Buick for 50 years was left out in the cold at the exact moment when they needed something like a PGA Tour event the most. The Tour has brought this on themselves.
03.16.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDanQ
This subject dovetails into the perspective of the new commish. Under Finchem long-standing tourneys and locations were dismissed I believe in part because they had heard all the sales pitches over the years. So Tim and his legions of VPs sought out and found new marks for their game while leaving behind the communities that supported their event. All of this worked while Tiger was in the spotlight casting a shadow large enough that casual fans and even sponsors didn't ask too many questions. Now Tim is retired and Jay has to forge ahead without Tiger being the primary focus of the Tour and he has to be careful how he pitches the product going forward. It appears he will rely heavily on the internet and streaming/channeling to control access to the tour as a portal guard or gate keeper for fans. To me the more hurdles you place between the fans and the sport the more you hurt the long term. Pay per view in many ways reduced boxing's one time broader appeal. Golf is already a niche sport but I think Jay will go this direction while constantly reminding everyone charity is the big winner while he pads his own retirement nest egg.
03.16.2017 | Unregistered Commentermunihack
Spot on post. Killing the Western Open, a former major for a poorly conceived playoff as well as killing these other mainstay tournaments will bite them one day. Someone will also figure out these WGC tournaments are nothing more than Globetrotter vs. Generals competition. Silly exhibitions that are just money grabs.

But yes, chip a couple of bucks at some charities, and all is good...or whatever. Eventually, the money will run out and guys I never heard of will no longer get free clubs, white pants, shirts like a NASCAR race suit, and make $500K per year for being 175th on the money list...

Enjoy the ride while you can, I guess...If you want to piss on people like Nelson, Hogan and now Palmer, go for it.
03.16.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMJR
Hey, I was always a Washington Generals fan. Go Red Klotz!!!
03.16.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTLB
What was the Tour supposed to do about the Buick Open? GM went bankrupt. Did another sponsor step up?
The tournament was moved within two weeks of losing a sponsor. Compare that with several other tournament on tour in which the tour has worked with the tournament for a year to line up a sponsor or even sponsored the event themselves. My main point is that moves like that do not contribute to stability. They left a tournament site of 50 years to satisfy the whims of a billionaire. The greenbrier event is sparsely attended and is reliant on needing a man who's willing to lose millions a year to host the tourney. Very shortsighted
03.16.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDan Q
@Dan Q did you see this article somebody else linked recently? http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/mexico/etc/cron.html

Cannot believe the tour got into bed with Salinas, pitiful.

Bay Hill will be fine. With Arnold now gone the structure of the deal the tournament had with the tour will change dramatically but it will continue as a fixture on the tour under the auspices of IMG and continue as a tribute to Arnold, that's my prediction anyway.

PS -- Geoff, did you leave out a 3 letter word in the title?
03.16.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPotatoe
Dan Q : In healthier times I would agree that more could have been done.

Context. It was 2009 and Buick was rumored on the way out as early as Torrey Pines in Feb. So it wasn't two weeks later. That was the announcement, not the same thing.

2009 and TARP and financial services firms seeing sponsorship of golf as radioactive. Buick leaves 2 tournaments without a sponsorship. You might start to wonder where the bottom might be.

They got an offer that couldn't be refused.in my view.

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