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December 06, 2001

Trying to discern Tiger's beef
By Dan Patrick

I've read the latest articles about Tiger Woods. But to be honest, I don't know what he's protesting. I don't know if he's complaining about his image and marketing rights being abused. Or if he's complaining about all the money the PGA Tour is making, largely due to the increased popularity he has brought to golf.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has won more than $20 million in his career in PGA Tour events.

Is he upset because PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem isn't singling him out and making him feel special?

Does he want salaries handed out on the PGA Tour? I'm not exactly sure what Tiger is upset about. Any time an athlete says it's not about money, it's usually about money.

I understand that he wants to protect his rights and I understand it's exactly what Michael Jordan did. But I'm still not sure what else he wants.

Does he want respect? Does he want a red phone that the commissioner can call him on? A line for just the two of them so the commissioner can call him or he can call the commissioner and go over things? Does he want to split from the PGA Tour like Greg Norman talked about doing? I'm still not exactly sure.

I think the initial view is that he's coming across as greedy and seems to maybe want more than his share of the pie. Granted, he's largely responsible for the improved TV ratings and the new TV contract that will enrich everyone in golf. He is also responsible for the million-dollar purses on the tour. But he didn't invent the sport. He didn't even modernize it.

I think Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer would have something to say about that.

I guess this all comes down to the sale and advantageous use of his likeness, image and name. If that's all it is -- couldn't this have been handled behind the scenes? I believe it was a strategically placed interview that his agent helped orchestrate to get the word out. And that may backfire. The worst thing that can happen to Tiger is that he turns the American people against him because he comes across as greedy.

Does he want a red phone that the commissioner can call him on?

Is he doing this for the tour or is he doing this for himself? Other golfers have defended him by saying that the tour has taken advantage of players in the past. Granted, Tiger is the most popular athlete in the world and the one most identifiable with his respective sport. And in his sport, he'll make about $9 million this year.

But unlike other sports, he has to earn that each year. Miss a cut, miss a check. The notion a fat up-front payday is odd in golf. It amounts to appearance money. What happened to love of the game and earning what you make? Tiger benefits from the existing structure, to say the least. The televising of his golf events provides Nike and all of Tiger's partners with an awful lot of exposure. Which they trade on to do business.

So what if the Tour and the networks make more because he's playing? It's not like there is some wrong here that needs to be righted. People who have a lot should be careful when they ask for more.

Could Tiger go about this on his own? No. We like watching him play against the other top players in the world. In sanctioned events that have some history. We like seeing him play the Nissan Open or the Kemper Open and win events that Tom Watson or Gary Player won in their primes.

I'm not really criticizing Tiger here. I understand. People should know that we anchors don't own our marketing rights or image at ESPN. ESPN owns everything we say, so I understand that. So does that mean I want a little bit more of the profit that the company made last year? No, but then I don't have the power that Tiger Woods does.

This is the way golf has always been. You earn your keep. But is that the way it should be? It's like we fall in line and say, "That's the way it's always been so that's the way it goes." Is Tiger bringing to light a deep-rooted problem? Did Nicklaus and Palmer feel this way?

I'd love to have some clandestine talks with them and ask if they felt that way. It makes me wish I had a radio show or Web site on which to discuss sports topics of interest. Maybe someday.

Tiger on tour is not like Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen or Madonna; they are sold as individual acts.

Tiger on tour is not like Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen or Madonna; they are sold as individual acts. And as much as the networks have pinpointed and showcased Tiger as an individual act, he still needs the rest of the tour.

I can't see him not playing in the majors. I can't see him starting his own tour. Then he would end up like the Harlem Globetrotters or something. A manufactured spectacle. And the Globetrotters are great, but they don't play important basketball games. Those are in the NBA.

The majors are what Tiger measures success with and by. I just can't see him playing those four events only, with the rest of his schedule a bunch of trumped-up exhibitions. I don't think it's going to get to that point. So I think what Tiger needs to be careful about is the public backlash. He's got the entire sport and everything he wants.

I hope he quietly strikes a deal with Finchem that says if he wins an event sponsored by a car company, the resulting ad has to meet reasonable standards set by the car company he is hooked up with. How hard is that? Then we can get back to the golf.

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