THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem wants his players to pitch in during a tough economy to help give sponsors their money’s worth, and Justin Leonard believes they will.
Finchem has sent a video to players and their agents asking them to consider adding tournaments they don’t typically play and to reach out to the sponsors when they are at tournaments, the Sports Business Journal reported.
“They’ve got a list of events that need help to varying degrees,” Leonard said Friday at the Chevron World Challenge. “I’m sensitive to that. I’m going to play a couple of events that they asked me to play, and I’m not going to play in a couple they asked me to play in. Bigger than that is doing more at tournaments.”
Throughout the year, tour officials lobby players to consider various tournaments that might need help, but it is rare for Finchem to make the appeal himself.
“We’re asking every player to add a tournament or two to their historical schedule to assist the tournaments that historically have weak fields,” Finchem said in the video, which was obtained by the Sports Business Journal. “We have a lot of title sponsors this year that are up for renewal. We have to put our best foot forward in terms of presenting our competitions.”
Leonard said he would add the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn., a tournament he has played only once in the last eight years.
Jim Furyk has not seen the video, but he could figure out the message – support what they have.
“My guess is they’re going to ask some more of the players to do some meet-and-greets, rub some elbows, thank people, make people aware of the fact that we appreciate what they’re doing,” Furyk said. “And I think they will. I think the players will respond positively to that. They should realize how fortunate we are.”
Whether it works remains to be seen.
Some players, such as Camilo Villegas and Anthony Kim, already have said they would take up joint membership in Europe, which means missing a few tournaments on the PGA Tour to reach the minimum requirement overseas.
Tiger Woods is the one player that moves the needle, yet his tendency in recent years is only to subtract tournaments, not add them. He has stopped playing Pebble Beach, Riviera and Kapalua in recent years, and there are more than a dozen events he has never played.
“A lot of the top players … those are the ones the media focuses on and the sponsors want,” Steve Stricker said.
Even so, he figures everyone understands what is at stake. The tour did not lose any tournaments in the meat of its schedule due to the economic downturn, yet Finchem has said if the recession lingers into 2009, there could be problems.
“It’s important that we’re at our best, and we make sure we take care of the people who are footing the bills,” Stricker said.