The problem with the FedExCup isn’t that Rory McIlroy won $15 million. It’s that he won another $15 million.
So staggering are the sums the world’s top players now tee up for that the golfing public has become desensitised to the dollars.
McIlroy adding $15 million to the $200 million of Nike money he signed for in 2013 and his more than $48 million in career earnings in the US just doesn’t stir the soul.
Nobody begrudges the likeable Northern Irishman his success, and watching him play the game just for the sake of it is entertaining.
But it is Green Jackets, not greenbacks, that are the currency of import at the elite level.
Sport is compelling only when the final result means something to those taking part and in the era of big dollar professional sport that something is rarely cash.
It’s why the Ryder Cup – with no purse at all – is the most enthralling golf on the calendar every two years.
It’s why Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson gave nary a thought to the winner’s cheque as they went head to head at the 2016 Open.
And you can be sure Francesco Molinari wasn’t calculating his share of second place after he dumped his tee shot in the water at the 12th hole of this year’s Masters.
“It is Green Jackets, not greenbacks, that are the currency of import at the elite level.”
For the drama to be authentic there has to be something more than money at stake, something that can’t be bought. Something that can only be earned.
Case in point is the final event of the secondary Tour this week where the total purse is relative chicken feed at $1,000,000 with the winner receiving a paltry $180,000.
But in terms of must watch TV (for the hard core golf fan), it rates well above the Tour Championship because the stakes are so much higher than mere money.
Every player in the field would welcome the winner’s cheque at Victoria National Golf Club but it is the realisation of a lifelong dream and a ticket to the big show which ultimately drives each and every one of them.
The PGA Tour has done exactly what its mission statement demands by getting professional golf to this point. The danger now is that it becomes a victim of its own success.
A colleague sent out a tweet last week that neatly encapsulated the problem. ‘Boring’, he wrote, ‘- the word the PGA Tour should fear above all others.’
It’s a timely and prescient reminder that professional golf is, at its core, in the entertainment industry and as such must continue to capture the imagination of the viewer.
The FedExCup finale proved that money alone doesn’t achieve that aim and the PGA Tour needs to recognise that.
Then it needs to get cracking to work out what does.
Rod Morri is founder of the TalkinGolf Podcast Network, home of the State of the Game, iSeekGolf, TalkinGolf History and Feed The Ball podcasts.
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