Why the no-shows for PGA Tour opener?
Although it might be tough to fathom the idea of passing on a free week in Hawaii -- Derek Lamely got $55,000 a year ago for finishing last -- the Hyundai Tournament of Champions has been dealing with this issue for years.
Their decisions to bypass the first event of the new year have seemingly made it easier for others to take the week off. And this year, the old problem is even more glaring with the absence of 11 players who are eligible.
Among those who won't tee it up when the tournament begins Friday are three major champions (Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke), three World Golf Championship winners (Luke Donald, Adam Scott, Martin Kaymer) and two FedEx playoff winners (Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose).
To be fair, Johnson, Rose, Snedeker and Jacobson have legitimate reasons for skipping. Johnson and Snedeker are coming off offseason surgery and not ready to play. Jacobson also was dealing with an injury. Rose's wife just had a baby.
So what is the excuse for the other seven players? The same one they have for skipping any other tournament on the PGA Tour. They are not required to play, and although it is unfortunate that they choose not to participate this week, it is more than understandable.
There are simply too many choices, too many good tournaments for today's top players. And for some, there has hardly been an offseason. Donald just played three weeks ago at the Australian Masters -- the last of a three-week run that saw him play in South Africa and Dubai before Australia. He is scheduled to open his 2012 season in three weeks at Abu Dhabi.
McIlroy, Clarke, Kaymer and Scott all play worldwide schedules as well with the opportunity to play four WGC, no-cut, guaranteed-money events -- plus the appearances fees they get at various tournaments.
So what to do?
No sport starts its season with as little fanfare, as little buzz, as the PGA Tour. Then again, no sport has the minuscule offseason of golf, either, meaning that players start and end based on personal preference, not necessarily where the schedule says they should.
A drastic measure would be to make playing the tournament mandatory to eligible players. If the PGA Tour wants a big start to its season, it has to insist that everybody be there. Of course, that goes against the very nature of the PGA Tour, which does not want to compel any player to compete somewhere he does not want to be.
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There have been calls to expand the field, as the Champions Tour does, by inviting winners of the past two years and those who hold major championship trophies for a period of time. But that doesn't mean that some of the marquee names from last year would show up.
You could attempt to make the first tournament of the year a World Golf Championship event and scrap the winners-only format, but again, guys can skip those, too.
The suggestion here has been to start the season a few weeks later, waiting until the end of January -- the week before the Super Bowl -- when there is no television conflict with the NFL playoffs, and players have a bit more time to decompress. Then stage a grand season-opening event with a full field of players in Hawaii, California or Florida. Figure out a way to compel everyone to be there and make it a big deal.
Members of the European Tour, who begin their seasons overseas, still would run into problems. And an extra three weeks in January doesn't mean some players still wouldn't want to wait to begin their season.
But at least it would try to alleviate the issue we are seeing this week.
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Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.