Hawkins on Tour TV Deal

Golf World's John Hawkins weighs in on the proposed 2007 concept for the Tour. He's mostly celebratory, so much so that the Commish will want to order reprints. But the story is loaded with mini-bombshells and interesting anecdotes may infuriate the rank-and-file player while creating new questions about how the framework of the schedule was put together.

With considerable help from the title sponsor, the FedEx Cup will offer a whopping $38 million payoff to the 30 players who make it to the Tour Championship, a source told Golf World. About 25 percent of that will go to the winner -- unofficial money likely to come in the form of a contribution to the players' retirement funds.

Hawkins will get a wine and cheese basket from the Commissioner for this line:

Though it may never rival the major championships in terms of relevance or do much to determine a Player of the Year, the four-week playoff series should resolve the tours late-season issues and bolster Finchem's bargaining power when he meets with the networks to negotiate the upcoming television contract, a process that is expected to begin this week.

Here's the part that may have the rank and file asking more questions:

It's hard to imagine a scenario where fewer than the top 70 would advance into the playoffs. Although the tour has developed a reputation in recent years for disregarding the best interests of its middle class, the FedEx Cup series will market opportunity -- the idea that No. 78 in the standings could get hot, play great golf under immense pressure and walk off with the $10 million. In a manner of speaking, he'll have earned it. "It will probably be like NASCAR, where it's hard to move up [in the Nextel Cup]," Woods surmised. "The research says 80 percent of the time, the winner comes out of the top five [in the standings]."

And this really caught my eye:

"There are going to be two sides to this," said IMG's Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent and a key player in the shaping of the tour's revisions. "A player who has a dominant year may get passed because of the reset. Having said that, a player who had a good year but not a great one will have a chance to make it great in the final month."

Tiger's agent was a "key player" in shaping the revisions? Hmmm. He also, amazingly, was complimentary:

In that sense, Finchem didn't exactly pull a rabbit out of his hat, but he didn't produce a goat, either. "I think Tim and Ed [tour executive VP Moorhouse] have done a hell of a job in creating a new system," Steinberg said. "They've done a great job of salvaging what could have been a very difficult situation."

Uh, they haven't inked any deals yet.

The television networks may be very willing to fork over a dollar total close to (or more than) the nearly $1 billion it paid to telecast the tour four years ago, but the long-term relationship between pro golf and TV could be irreparably harmed if Finchem doesn't deliver a series of tournaments that feature all the game's top-ranked players.
"It's a step in the right direction," ESPN's Wildhack said. "Player participation is what drives ratings. The three guys that make the ratings are Woods, Mickelson and John Daly."

Then Hawkins drops this, which doesn't exactly make the ESPN guy look too good.

Last month's WGC-American Express Championship featured a near-perfect competitive scenario on Sunday afternoon: Woods vs. Daly in a playoff televised by ABC, whose parent company, Disney, also owns ESPN and has an endorsement deal with Woods. Despite a marquee leader board (Sergio Garcia and Colin Montgomerie also were in contention), the WGC emblem and the Woods-Daly showdown, the final round ranked 21st in sports programming shown on national TV that weekend.