TORONTO - Often amusing, at least for the cynical, is the naivete of sports fans — and not only golf fans.
But for purposes of this piece, let’s focus on the no-shows at the just-concluded HSBC Champions, won by Ryder Cup superhero Ian Poulter in China.
Thirteen of the top 20 and seven of the top 10 in the world were in the field, but Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods were not among them, even though they were already in China for a made-for-TV event — with its guaranteed millions — earlier in the week.
The absence of Woods and McIlroy shatters the naive notion that top players choose events based on their prestige and the quality of golf course they are played on.
Those are the happy-face reasons given by players who want fans and media to drink the Kool-Aid, leading to wild fantasies that the good of the game is the primary motivation for players when putting together their schedules.
That’s not to say that prestige and golf course aren’t among the considerations, but they are among many, including financial gain and the time players want to spend with their families — something most of us want despite dedication to our careers.
The critics saying that Woods and McIlroy stiffed the sponsors, or the ones who say a World Golf Championships event “requires” the best players, should talk to organizers of other events who routinely get fields much weaker than the one in China.
As much as some want to slam players for only being in it for the money, are the tours any different?
The addition of the FedEx Cup playoffs has crowded an already congested late-season schedule and let’s not forget the Race to Dubai is hitting its peak in Europe.
When a top PGA Tour player is putting together his schedule, he will naturally include all four majors and, in most cases, the four World Golf Championships events. Then, add in the three FedEx Cup playoffs plus the Tour Championship to bring it to 12.
Don’t forget the Players Championship and events the players have an affection for, such as the Arnold Palmer Invitational, hosted by the King, and Jack Nicklaus’ tournament, the Memorial. The Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup enter into it, depending on the year.
That brings us to about 15 or 16 tournaments if you follow the standard script for top players. Add in that some like to play around their home towns if a tournament is in the vicinity and others like one or two events leading up to a major.
That takes us to more than 20 events.
Woods has played 19 PGA Tour events this year and he’s talking about cutting it back in 2013. McIlroy played 16 PGA Tour events, but he’s got work left to do in Europe, which brings up another question.
What happens if Woods and others start to play more in Europe, which is the talk these days?
Something has to give, even in the big events and HSBC isn’t the only disappointed sponsor out there when marquee players don’t show.
The only thing that will prevent this from happening is the long-held belief that players should have to play each event on the schedule every few years, but that has been shot down repeatedly because of the old independent contractor thing.
Make no mistake, golf is a business and the tours have benefitted from the excess of tournaments as much as the players, which is why it’s bursting at the seams.
A follow-up to a note that appeared here last week about McIlroy possibly becoming a Nike player. The door opened even wider when McIlroy and Titleist officially parted ways last week. The rumour is that McIlroy will get as much as $250 million over 10 years. That deal would certainly raise Nike’s profile in golf, just as it does with mega-stars from other sports who represent the Swoosh. But will Nike continue to make a big commitment to keeping Woods in the stable as well, and will the return on investment justify keeping both? Fox Sports said last week that the McIlroy deal is done and he’s already shot a commercial along with Woods about a new red driver from Nike that will be introduced on Monday ... Keegan Bradley and 2010 RBC Canadian Open champ Carl Pettersson told Alex Miceli of Golfweek recently they will likely challenge whatever the USGA and R&A announces on their ruling about the anchoring that goes with the use of belly putters. That could include taking the matter to court. Don’t be surprised if putter manufacturers launch their own legal challenge. It’s happened in the past ... Oshawa’s Derek Gillespie is at the second stage of European Tour qualifying school in Valencia, Spain, starting Wednesday, while London’s Andrew Parr goes in Alicante, Spain ... With the American election about to take place, we’re feeling a little presidential, so let’s talk Presidents Cup. The highest Canadian in International standings last week was Graham DeLaet, in 45th place, while David Hearn was 60th. Brad Fritsch, who just earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour and Adam Hadwin were 95th and 96th, respectively.