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The GrunkleGuru

Grunkle is a slang term for the thick rough on a golf course that I have been using for many years. Given my penchant for inaccurate tee balls, I have become a bit of a guru out of the thick stuff, hence the name. This is a site for my random thoughts about sports (espeically golf) and life in general. While nothing special, it will hopefully offer a break from the daily drudgery for both you and me.

November 10, 2005

Product Review - What Happens To The Greensboro PGA Tour Stop

Note: Long ahead. If you don't care about golf, the PGA Tour, or the event here in Greensboro I suggest you find another distration.

The product review of this week is not so much of a review, but rather a combination of predictions and recommendations for the PGA Tour as they work towards revamping their schedule for 2007 and the new television contract.

Yes, the PGA Tour is a product. The events the put on are consumed by viewers and attendees. It is an entertainment product and in order to stay current products must evolve over time. Golfers don’t use persimmon drivers and hickory shafted clubs anymore for a reason. Products evolve and I commend Tim Finchem and his staff at the PGA Tour for realizing that the product was slipping in consumption and what they are proposing is quite radical for the PGA Tour. In brief, here is what they are proposing:

- Shortening the meat of the schedule to conclude in September with the Tour Championship as the culmination of the main season.

- The creation of the Fed-Ex cup. A yearlong points system where a certain number of players will earn enough points to enter the final four events.

- At the conclusion of the Tour Championship the PGA Tour will shift gears and produce the Quest For The Card – a 6 or 7 event schedule that will finalize the top 125 for next year as well as allow for qualifying to invitational events for the following year.

Those are the major changes to the annual structure of the schedule, and on paper this looks like a great idea as it will allow for golf to have the meat of its schedule end before football season really get underway, and that has always hampered the tour at the end of the season.

The PGA Tour has also proposed moving the Players Championship (considered by many to be the fifth major) from its traditional March slot to one in May. This will give the PGA Tour a signature event in each month from April to September. It will go as follows:

April – The Masters
May – The Players Championship
June – The U.S. Open
July – The British Open
August – The PGA Championship
September – The Tour Championship

Additionally, the Ryder Cup and President’s Cup bi-annual events will be held two weeks after the Tour Championship annually, which will bring the best together one last time in events that, promote team competition.

The one possible knock on the system is how many events players will have to play in order to earn spots to the playoff scenario, but here’s the thing. The players support it. Most don’t play more then three events in a row simply because the season is so long (currently running from January to November), but with the main season ending in September it gives the U.S. players a chance to rest up and play in events that they want (Tiger will still play Disney), and it also gives the international players the opportunity to return home and support the tours that gave them their start.

The definitely creates a much stronger schedule and allows for excitement and heavy promotion on a monthly basis. I give Mr. Finchem and his team a tremendous amount of credit for the thought and effort that has been put into this new concept. I can’t wait to see the details come together.

While I think this concept is great for the PGA Tour as a whole, I must also express my concern for my local event, the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro. Formerly known as the Greater Greensboro Open (GGO) this is one of the longest annual events on the tour schedule, but for some time we have had a hard time getting the players that is needed for a successful event. Greensboro is not a major market, and given our recent performance I see no reason why the Tour will integrate this event into the main schedule, and to be honest I do not have a problem with that. However, I do not want to see this event get contracted, and I truly believe this will not be the case.

I do think we can do a great job of marketing the GGO (I still prefer to call it by these initials over anything else) as a lynchpin of the Quest for the Card. There will be more drama involved as the lesser-known players duke it out for their livelihood. Remember, golfers only get paid if they make a cut at an event, and unless they have won in the last two years, access to the PGA Tour is not guaranteed. They have to earn it, and with proper promotion, the GGO should be able to live a long and prosperous life as an event where fans can watch future stars and say, “I remember when the won here in Greensboro.”

That being said, I also have a suggestion for a secondary program that could benefit the Greensboro tournament greatly, and that is to take better advantage of our history.

Sam Snead won this event eight times during his career (I believe that is the number), and recently the trophy was named after him, which is the right thing to do. However, I also think that we can take better advantage of Mr. Snead’s history at this event. What if we got together with some of the other events that have strong ties to the greats of the game of golf? An annual series that offered a bonus of some sort based on their performance in the following events:

The Bay Hill Invitational – Arnold Palmer’s tournament
The Memorial – Jack Nicklaus’s tournament
The Byron Nelson Classic – Bryon Nelson’s tournament
The Colonial – Associated with Ben Hogan
The GGO – Associated with Sam Snead

Since Greensboro is the final stop, we could leverage our date on the schedule to draw an even stronger field. If we could get a spot in mid-October players would have had a month to rest up and decide if they want to play in this final event to win what could be marketed as a prestigious award. Let’s call it The Legends Cup.
The Legend’s Cup would be a point system that is sponsored by an entirely different entity then each event respectively. Since three of the events would take place in either Texas or North Carolina, it would seem that Dell is a perfect sponsor for such an event.

I predict that starting in 2007 the PGA Tour will experience a boom in popularity, as the new schedule does a fabulous job of spacing major events, as well as providing an exciting play-off style format to the schedule. All the fall events that are currently on the schedule will not remain, as they will have a difficult time lining up sponsors for all those events. Greensboro will keep its PGA Tour stop as there is just too much history here to not at least give us a chance to show we can survive, and ultimately thrive as a key event for those looking to earn playing privileges for next year.

Golf is a game built on tradition, but from time to time new traditions must be created. Remember, professional golf is a product for everyone except those that play it, and if the masses are bored with the product, it must either change, or it will die a slow and agonizing death. The PGA Tour has taken the lead for changing this tradition, but it is still up to the individual events, the management teams, and their sponsors to embrace this change, and continue to put out a strong product.


At 11:12 PM, Blogger Patrick Eakes said...

Guru, your marketing suggestion is a good one. I have often wondered why the Jaycees did not brand the GGO as Snead's tournament more.


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