Leonard Shapiro looks at Washington's place on the PGA Tour schedule, assesses the new TV deal and says the Booz Allen people were treated so poorly that they are looking at sponsorig an LPGA event.
The tour asks its title sponsors to put up about $8 million a year for the right to put its name on an event. What do you get in Washington for that sum? Almost certainly a mediocre field competing on a second-tier golf course in an afterthought event played during a time of year when many area courses are not in the best condition after a long hot summer and seven months of member play.
The tour also has treated Booz Allen rather shabbily in the manners department. The sponsor found out about the new schedule and its banishment to the fall with a phone call less than two hours before the tour announced it to the media in a press conference that would have made the spin control masters at the White House look like a bunch of ward-level political hacks.
The tour has said it is locked into its current schedule, not to mention an unprecedented -- and rather risky--15-year television contract with the Golf Channel to show 15 events in their entirety and first and second round coverage of tournaments covered on the weekend by re-upping partners NBC and CBS.
The Golf Channel deal came about because ESPN and ABC felt they weren't getting enough value for the money they also were plowing into the PGA Tour coffers. The Golf Channel says it's available to 70 million viewers, but industry sources indicate only about 45 million have the service included in their basic cable or satellite packages. Perhaps the tour will help increase those numbers, but it also risks becoming even more of a niche sport without the sort of daily exposure ESPN has provided in the past.
Still, there may be better news on the way.
We're already whispers that the LPGA may be interested in filling the PGA Tour void in Washington. And with Annika Sorenstam, the best female player on the planet, and appealing young American stars like Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer emerging as mega-watt talents, perhaps Booz Allen ought to think about putting its dollars in a far better place, at a far better time of year with world-class players who actually want to come to the Nation's Capital.