The surprisingly chipper talk of Tiger coming back unblemished meant this exchange from the SI Confidential went unnoticed:
Anonymous Pro: The thing that we thought would drive the Tour was the World Golf Championships. If anything, those events are killing the other tournaments. Why? The WGC tournaments draw top players away from regular Tour events, which we need now more than ever.
Bamberger: The Tour basically oversold Tiger, and in the end it's an uphill slog when he doesn't appear. The Tour's long tradition is about local events and local charities. They tried to join the big leagues and were somewhat successful but found that golf is still a niche sport, although it can break out from time to time. The WGC events haven't connected with anyone and at the same time have ruined the real heart of the Tour, stops like L.A. or Hartford or Colonial that are now unfairly perceived as second-rate.
Anonymous Pro: Tiger and Phil wanted the season to end sooner. They weren't playing after mid-August, sometimes not even in the season-ending Tour Championship. Now that the FedEx Cup concludes the season in September, they're taking advantage of the downtime they asked for by playing overseas for big appearance fees. Didn't Finchem know that was going to happen? I'm not blaming Tiger or Phil. I'd play in a dress for $3 million. It is the Tour's fault for allowing it, and it really rubs me the wrong way. This is the biggest bogey Finchem has ever made.
Short term I think it's terribly wrong to call the WGC concept a bogey. But in the post-Tiger accident and Great Recession economy, long term the events appear to bring as many complications as solutions.
I'm guessing that hard questions internally about the value of WGC events will be forbidden as long as Finchem is commissioner. But the combination of increased animosity outside of the U.S. toward the America-centric concept and the inability of stops like San Diego to draw sponsor interest, could mean 2010 will lead to a closer examination of the World Golf Championship concept. Long overdue.