By petedirenzo
Friday, January 09, 2009

By Alan ShipnuckSI Senior Writer Golf writers have been on the endangered species list for a while now but 2008 was a particularly brutal year.
Longtime scribes from big-time newspapers in L.A., Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Oakland and elsewhere took buyouts or were otherwise downsized, casualties of a dying industry and cratering economy.
The Mercedes was when all of this hit home for me. I’ve been coming to the tournament since the mid-90’s, and it was always a fun chance to catch up with colleagues in an intimate setting after the long off-season.
This year there might as well be tumbleweed blowing through the press room. Excepting the Hawaii contingent, the New York Times is the American newspaper that has sent a writer here. The AP is on the scene, and Art Spander, an ink-stained wretch for half a century until he, too, got a pink slip last year, is on hand but is writing for a Web site and a few outlets in Great Britain, where newspapers still matter, a little.
Making all this more jarring is that the Mercedes has always taken care of its sportswriters like no other tournament, whether it’s setting up sweet accommodations at low prices or hosting various evening functions where the alcohol and conversation both flow freely.
When I checked in yesterday I was loaded down with a shopping-bag full of swag, including two shirts, a hat and a large collection of Hawaiian foodstuffs. I expressed some amazement at all the free stuff but the tournament official taking care of me said, a little bittersweetly,”We want our writers to be happy so they’ll come back again next year.”

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