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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Passing Up Paradise

Doug Ferguson has an interesting column up on Golfserv about the Mercedes Championships, which kicks off the 2006 PGA Tour season Thursday in Kapalua. Much has been made in the days and weeks leading up to the Mercedes Championships about the voluntary absences of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen (especially Tiger and Phil, of course). The Mercedes is a winners-only event that annually fires up the PGA Tour season, and Ferguson describes the perks that accompany a weekend in Maui and the red-carpet treatment that the golfers receive, which by even PGA Tour star standards is top notch. Despite the pampering and any obligation or duty to the Tour, the two biggest stars on Tour are sitting out this week, much to the chagrin of everyone with any stake in the Championships, and especially Mercedes, who is still considering whether or not to extend is sponsorship of the season-opening event.

Until now, I have been on the players' side. I felt that there is no obligation to the Tour, that they are essentially free agents who owe nothing too substantial to anyone but themselves and their families and that if they feel like they want to skip a tournament, it is no one's business but their own. Ferguson's take on this situation, however, has begun to sway my opinion. Maybe there is an obligation that these stars show up for their fellow competitors, their fans and their Tour, especially in a special, elite event such as this one. I'm still not shaking a scolding finger at Tiger and Lefty, but I'm starting to think that maybe I should.

UPDATE: Bob Harig elaborates further on a point that Ferguson mentions, which is the historically poor condition of the greens at Kapalua. There's also an interesting anecdote about how Good Samaritan Billy Andrade "helped out" by agreeing to participate in the pro-am at the Mercedes so that an additional number of donors would pay and play ahead of the pros.


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