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Is Global Turf War Looming in Professional Golf?

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For the past few years, there has been continuing talk and speculation of the formation of a global golf tour, encompassing the major professional tours of the world, namely the behemoth PGA Tour and the lesser European Tour. For all intents and purposes, it has just remained as chatter with no one stepping up to confirm or refute the birth of a super global tour.

In the last few months, however, there seems to have been some stirring, and whether this is related to the start of a global tour cannot be confirmed. This has been brought about primarily due to both tours bulking up their presence, particularly in Asia where there is room for growth insofar as the professional game is concerned.

With the shrewd and wily Tim Finchem no longer at the helm of the PGA Tour, a younger commissioner in the form of Jay Monahan will be a good bet to bring about change. The Americans have beefed up their presence and geographic footprint in Asia. The PGA Tour has an established beach-head in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and a rich tournament in the US$7 million dollar CIMB Classic, which has now been extended till 2020.

The next market is South Korea where the PGA Tour is growing its presence. It has teamed up with the CJ Corporation and has announced the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges, an event with a $9.25 million purse that’s scheduled for October 16-22, 2017 in Korea.

In making this official, Monahan said, “This announcement is a historic landmark for the PGA Tour as we add another tournament in Asia. We had such a phenomenal experience in Korea last year at The Presidents Cup, and we hoped an official, permanent event in this great country would be the result of that success.” He went on to add, “Partnering with a respected business leader like the CJ Corporation means this tournament will be on the Korean sports landscape for years to come.”

“The addition of the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges to our schedule gives us three strong tournaments in consecutive weeks in Asia, and they will play a significant role in shaping the early part of the FedExCup season and the FedExCup chase overall,” Monahan continued. Footnote: The tournaments are the World Golf Championship in Shanghai, CIMB Classic and the Korean tournament.

In 2016, 20 players from Korea had membership on either the PGA Tour or Web.com Tour. On the PGA Tour’s international-player roster, the 12 Korean members for the 2016-17 season is exceeded only by the 15 from Australia.

Completing the “Asian Swing” is the establishment of the PGA Tour’s Champions and the Japan Airlines Championship, the first ever PGA Tour-sanctioned event to be held in Japan to be played at Narita Golf Club in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, Japan the week of September 4-10, 2017.

One of the PGA’s early beach-heads in Asia was in China, but that relationship which was brokered by Finchem back in 2014 seems to have turned sour. The PGA Tour was partnered with the all-powerful China Golf Association, which operates the China PGA Tour. With this partnership in limbo, China is off the table temporarily.

In recent weeks, the PGA Tour flexed its muscles by opening a base in England. This is a strong affront to the European Tour, although the Americans have been quick to point out that its London office’s “prime focus will be on media rights and tournament sponsorship.” If this does not point to the PGA Tour flying solo, what else can it be?

The move toward the globalization of golf does not stop at the thrust toward Asia. In 2016, a strategic alliance was formed between the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour. This agreement is designed to further promote the growth of golf and the partnership between the leading men’s and women’s professional golf tours and it will include areas such as schedule coordination, joint marketing programs, domestic television representation, digital media, and exploring the potential development of joint events.

Commenting on the strategic alliance, LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said, “We look forward to working with the PGA Tour team to deliver a positive impact for our sport.” This is a dynamite partnership and it will be a tough act to follow and to beat!

What sort of a conclusion can we draw from all this activity in Asia? The answer really is simple – there is absolutely no doubt that the PGA Tour has taken off big time in Asia, and from all indications, it looks like the Americans are going it alone in their initiative to start up a global tour.

Speaking for Asia, we welcome this development because it only means that good things can happen for the game of golf. The PGA Tour has deep pockets, a tremendous depth in its field of players, and it has powerful media in tow. No one can do a better job than the PGA Tour when it comes to growing the game of golf and expanding its influence on a global scale. Remember that slogan that the PGA Tour used to use some years ago to promote its tour: THESE GUYS ARE GOOD! Well, you better believe them; they are darn good!

So, where does that leave the European Tour insofar as their dream to start a global tour is concerned? Well, Keith Pelley, the tour’s chief executive officer, has not been idling all this time. He has been actively dreaming up plots of his own to expand and take a hold of the global game. In his bid to “conquer” the world, he has sought to be allies with the PGA Tour of Australasia (what a silly term, you are either Australia or Asia but not Australasia!), and the “baby” of the alliance, the Asian Tour, which incidentally has problems of its own.

After some months of relative silence, Pelley seems to have emerged from a deep winter slumber to announce a “game changer.” The head honcho of the European Tour generated some tremors on the golf landscape with the announcement of a new format for the professional game, “GolfSixes”, which made a successful debut at the Centurion Club north of London on May 6-7. This format featured two-man teams from 16 different countries competing for a prize fund of $1.06 million.

What Pelley has done represents a part of the European Tour’s aggressive move to introduce innovative formats to broaden the appeal of the sport. As stated earlier, in trying to bring about change, Pelley has started a romance with new bedfellows: the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Asian Tour. Both these tours have bought into the new format lock, stock, and barrel.

Pelley wants to “emulate the national fervor” of the Ryder Cup in GolfSixes, which will feature amphitheatre-style stands around the tees and greens, music and pyrotechnics on the first tee and at various points around the course, and all players will be miked up. Sounds like a great deal of fun and this is precisely what golf needs to grow spectator support.

In an interview, Pelley said: “It is not about wholesale changes in the game. We need to be more entertaining for the younger generation so they can experience the wonderful game and the great athletes.”

Well, it looks like Pelley has something with which to go after a global golf tournament. Maybe, there’s a special “Sixes” global golf tournament league in the offing and perhaps this is what Pelley hopes to use as his thrust toward occupying the global game space. It’s anybody’s guess right now because amid all of this activity, there seems to be some clear battle lines emerging. The European Tour with its allies is going one way, while the PGA Tour seems to be the quiet 1000-pound gorilla in the arena. There has been no word or reaction from the PGA Tour on Pelley’s new “Sixes” format.

Another measure of the adversarial status between the PGA Tour and the European Tour relates to the relative attraction of the PGA Tour to many of the European Tour’s top stars. Because of the massive purses that are involved, there has been a migration of Europe’s top stars across the Atlantic in search of greener pastures. It goes without saying that star quality is very important in any professional sport, and Pelley has been very concerned about his tour becoming a secondary tour with a whole bunch of journeymen playing for second-rate rewards. He swung into action and cut a deal with Rolex to fatten up the purses for some marquee European Tour events in a bid to keep his top players on home soil. The European Tour’s Rolex Series, will mean enhanced prize funds for certain tournaments, which kicked off with the recent BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

All indications point to both the tours being intent to gain more traction on the global scene, but there seems to be no signs of working together to bring about the realization of a true global tour. Both sides have their own agendas, and the PGA Tour is very active in Asia looking for new sponsors to support new tournaments. The same is true of the Europeans and with this go-it-alone posturing, one can only conclude that each side has resolved to fight for market share and dominance on its own strengths and merits.
It doesn’t take rocket science to figure which side will win in this show-down. The PGA Tour just has too much fire-power in its arsenal in terms of cash, corporate clout, media exposure, and player quality. For the Europeans, it would be like going up against Goliath, ill-armed to do battle.

Whatever the case, let us all hope that the two tours can find some common ground to come together and work together for the greater interest of the game. Pipe dreams? Probably, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed nevertheless.

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Mike is the owner and publisher of ASIAN GOLF, published by the Asia Pacific Golf Group headquartered in Singapore. It is the only English language golf magazine that is pan-Asian in its distribution and readership. He is also the owner and producer of the Asia Pacific Golf Summit, the region’s top conference on the business of golf and the highly prestigious Asian Golf Awards, widely recognised as the “Oscars” for the Asian golf industry. e-Mail: mike@asiapacificgolfgroup.com Web site: http://www.asiapacificgolfgroup.com

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Rano

    Aug 8, 2017 at 8:17 am

    “what a silly term, you are either Australia or Asia but not Australasia!”

    What a silly and ignorant comment to make. New Zealand (among others) isn’t in either Asia or Australia. It’s in Australasia.

  2. CB

    Aug 7, 2017 at 9:27 am

    @ John: Thumbs up.
    @ Mike Sebastian: D- for Geography.

    “Australasia, a region of Oceania, comprises Australia, New Zealand, the island of New Guinea, and neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean. Charles de Brosses coined the term (as French Australasie) in Histoire des navigations aux terres australes[1] (1756). He derived it from the Latin for “south of Asia” and differentiated the area from Polynesia (to the east) and the southeast Pacific (Magellanica).[2] The bulk of Australasia sits on the Indo-Australian Plate, together with India.” Wikipedia.

  3. CB

    Aug 7, 2017 at 9:22 am

    The PGA Tour is American – which americans benefit from a global tour?
    The European Tour is European – which europeans benefit from a global tour?

    The fans not – bad viewing times on TV and can’t watch the tournaments live
    The players not – agonising travel and jet lag

    I smell greed in the boardrooms of the tours…

  4. John

    Aug 7, 2017 at 4:47 am

    Australasia refers to “Oceania” or, nations like Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and other surrounding countries. Calling it the Australian tour could be insulting to the other countries’ tournaments. A PGA TOUR event at Royal Melbourne annually would (with the right purse) be a massive boost to the region as the hilariously tiny purses on the Australasian Tour aren’t attracting any players.

  5. Joe

    Aug 7, 2017 at 12:11 am

    I wonder if Mr. Sebastian actually read the “Goliath” account. Goliath lost.

    So now I’m left scratching my head. Either he didn’t understand his own metaphor, or meant it to mean that he is pulling for the European Tour (and not the PGA Tour) to be the ones to be successful.

  6. Bert

    Aug 6, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    +1 Tom1

  7. xzx

    Aug 6, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    Terrible idea for us who watch PGA every weekend in the evening UK hours 🙂

  8. H

    Aug 6, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    This articles says so much without saying anything at all.

  9. Chris B

    Aug 6, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    The European Tour has basically been a global tour for years. The problem for it now is that the PGA Tour is trying to tap in to other markets.

    You can see the attraction of playing the PGA Tour because the ease of getting from one tournament to another. It also has a massive advantage of hosing 3 of the majors.

    Years ago Greg Norman tried to get a world tour going, it never happened. The players will have to be happy to travel. Money talks so it’s possible.

  10. Tom1

    Aug 6, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    connect the dots and complete the picture. Golf is a global sport with competitors from all over the globe. It’s a good thing.

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Podcasts

Gear Dive: USC head golf coach Chris Zambri on the challenges that will come with the new NCAA rules

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In this Special Edition of The Gear Dive, USC Men’s Head Golf Coach Chris Zambri discusses his thoughts on the new NCAA mandates, how to get recruited, and the pros and cons of recruiting can’t-miss superstars.

  • 9:55 — Zambri discusses thoughts on new rule
  • 17:35 — The rule he feels is the toughest navigate
  • 26:05 — Zambri discusses the disadvantages of recruiting a “can’t miss” PGA star
  • 32:50 — Advice to future recruits
  • 44:45 — The disadvantages of being tied to an OEM as a college golf team

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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A new NCAA transfer rule gets passed… and college coaches are NOT happy

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New rules just keep on coming from the NCAA; college coaches are not happy about this one.

In a summer of block buster coaching changes, the NCAA has done its best to stay atop the news cycle by making some significant changes, which will impact the recruitment process. In an article two months ago entitled “The effect the NCAA’s new recruiting rules will have on college golf,” I spoke to college coaches about a new rule, which will not allow unofficial or official visits until September 1 of the players Junior Year. To go along with this rule, the NCAA has also put in place a new recruiting calendar which will limit the sum of the days of off campus recruiting between a head and assistant coach to 45 days starting August 1, 2018.

The 45-day rule will have several potential impacts for both recruits and assistant coaches. For recruits, it is likely that after a couple (2-3) evaluations, coaches will make offers and ask for speed responses to ensure they are not missing out on other options. I also think you will see far less assistant coaches recruiting, which ultimately hurts their opportunities to learn the art of recruitment.

The new transfer rule

In the past, players were subject to asking their present institution for either permission to contact other schools regarding transfer, or a full release.

Now, starting October 15, players can simply inform their institution of their intensions to leave and then start contacting other schools to find an opportunity. This is a drastic shift in policy, so I decided to poll college coaches to get their reactions.

The poll was conducted anonymously via Survey Monkey. Participation was optional and included 6 questions:

  1. New NCAA Legislation will allow players to transfer without a release starting October 2018. Do you support this rule change?
  2. Do you believe that this rule will have APR implications?
  3. Who do you think will benefit most from this rule?
  4. What are the benefits of allowing students to transfer without a release? What are the potential harms?
  5. New NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?
  6. What implications do you see for this rule?

In all, 62 Division I golf coaches responded, or about 10 percent of all Division I coaches in Men’s and Women’s Golf. The results show that 81.25 percent of DI coaches said that they do NOT support the rule change for transfers.

Also, 90 percent of coaches polled believe that the rule will have APR implications. APR is Academic Progress Rate which holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.

The APR is calculated as follows:

  • Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible.
  • A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate.
  • In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.

Teams must earn a four-year average APR of 930 to compete in championships.

While the APR is intended as an incentive-based approach, it does come with a progression of penalties for teams that under-perform academically over time.

The first penalty level limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week over five days (as opposed to 20 over six days), with the lost four hours to be replaced with academic activities.

A second level adds additional practice and competition reductions, either in the traditional or non-championship season, to the first-level penalties. The third level, where teams could remain until their rate improves, includes a menu of possible penalties, including coaching suspensions, financial aid reductions and restricted NCAA membership.

Clearly coaches are not happy about the move and feel that the rule unfairly benefits both the student athletes and major conference schools, who may have a swell of calls around middle of October as Student athletes play great fall golf and look to transfer. Although coaches are unhappy about the new rule, it is very difficult to predict what direct impact the rule will have on teams; coaches are extremely smart and understand recruiting and development within the frame work of college better than anyone can imagine. As a result, I think coaches will react in many ways which are impossible to predict.

The survey also asked, “new NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?” For this, coaches were more divided with 45 percent in favor of the rule, and 55 percent not.

Although coaches supported the legislation, many (41/62) suggested that it would potentially hurt international recruiting at tournaments like Doral and the Orange Bowl and they had, in the past, used December as a time to recruit.

As we move forward with these changes, here are some potential things that recruits, and their families should consider, including consequences of the rules:

  1. With a limit of 45 days and these transfer rules, it is likely that coaches will be doing significantly more investigation into a player’s personalities and family situation to make sure they know what they are getting.
  2. Coaches may also start skipping over better players in favor of kids they think will be a good fit and are likely to stay
  3. Rosters may get bigger, as coaches are trying to have larger numbers to potentially offset transfers

Unfortunately, we enter a new era of rules at the worst time; we have never had a more competent and deep group of college coaches, the clear majority of whom are tremendous stewards of the game. Hopefully this rule will have insignificant effect on the continued growth of college golf but only time will tell.

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Is golf actually a team sport?

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Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at edmyersgolf.com.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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