PGA Tour Confidential: Mercedes Championship

Geoff Ogilvy, Mercedes-Benz Championship, Third Round
Robert Beck/SI
Geoff Ogilvy won the limited-field season opener in Hawaii, but is he on his way to more major victories in 2009?

Every week of the 2009 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The suspense of starting a new tradition, a weekly Tour Confidential roundtable, is killing me. So let's kick this thing off. One thing I noticed from Saturday's Golf Channel telecast: While I love the chance to watch live golf in the evening, that doesn't mean I want to watch it the entire evening. What is this, the U.S. Open? I like watching golf as much as the next sentient being, but four hours of it from the third round of a 32-man event? It's too much, and it leads to bad TV.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Is a four-hour telecast too much? Obviously, yes ... every other week of the year. But I love watching the Mercedes because the course makes for thrilling golf, the surfers and spouting whales are a fun diversion, and I'm usually ready to plug back in after months without a meaningful golf tournament. But the mood quickly passes, and then I prefer a shorter telecast to assist my DVR'ing.

Dick Friedman, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: My strategy for the TV marathon was to zap between football and golf. What I saw of the Golf Channel, I kind of liked. They have a new production team — Brandt Packer and Jack Graham, formerly of ABC — and it seemed to me they have raised their game visually and in terms of pacing.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: Images from Hawaii are nice when it's 30 degrees here in New York, but this event — which is supposed to be a reward to 2008's winners — would be a lot more fun if it were played during the silly season. Who knows, maybe even Tiger and Phil would make an appearance.

Would no golf in Hawaii during the first weeks of January be such a bad thing? One of the main goals of the FedEx Cup was to make the season end in the fall and avoid going head-to-head with the NFL on TV. Why not finish in Hawaii in September or have silly season events there in December? The average sports fan is not thinking about golf now, not with these odd broadcast times and the NFL playoffs. Why not start the season two or three weeks from now in California or Arizona?

Van Sickle: According to one of the Honolulu papers, and now the Associated Press, the tournament may leave Hawaii. It seems the Mercedes guys are annoyed that Tiger and Phil and Sergio and Padraig aren't playing. I heard they've never been that thrilled with the move years ago from La Costa to Hawaii because of less media exposure and limited attendance. (Hey, they are playing on an island, and a pretty small island at that.)

The Honolulu story said the tourney officials want to move the tournament to a site that might get Tiger or Phil to show up. It's like the Jack Vickers story all over again. Sorry, guys, but it's all about the date. If you have a bad date, Tiger isn't coming even if you play in his backyard (and there's almost room for a course on his swank Jupiter estate). Playing the first week of January means Tiger (and Phil and the rest) have to interrupt their off-seasons.

I wouldn't be surprised if Hawaii has no tour events in three years. If Mercedes pulls the plug, it'll hurt the Sony Open. When the Hawaiian Open was the only Hawaiian event, it didn't draw very good fields. If that happens again, Sony will probably pull the plug, too. But it doesn't stop there. With all the struggling automakers and financial institutions, the number of PGA Tour tournaments at risk of losing their sponsorship could be in double figures. A tour that once boasted 46 or 48 events (including unofficial ones) might wind up with only 30 or so. That's layoffs for golfers, something we haven't seen in golf in our lifetimes.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Here's a thought: Why not start the season in Dubai? They've got everything the PGA Tour and the players want: pristine weather, sand, strong courses and big money. Something to think about as the European PGA Tour gets ready for its Middle Eastern swing through Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai.

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