Many golf onlookers may have been surprised when the announcement was made that the PGA Tour’s WGC-Cadillac Championship was moving to Mexico for 2017, while some chose to politicize it.
Ignoring the links that had presidential hopeful Donald Trump involved, Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said it was necessary from a financial perspective. Furthermore, he added that with automotive brand Cadillac’s sponsorship coming to an end, new sponsors could be entitled to move the event if they so wished. This seems strange seeing as the new name was simply WGC-Mexico Championship.
A WGC event should attract the best field outside of the majors and Players Championship. Not announcing a venue for next year’s tournament seems unprofessional, suggesting a hasty decision, and giving weight to the political side.
Ignoring all of this, one has to take notice that the tournament will be one of a very few on the tour that actually occur outside of the United States. At a time when there are discussions of how to spread the game around the world, this move may be able to get the tour some good PR. The WGC-Mexico Championship will be the second tournament in that nation, bringing the tally of PGA Tour events outside the United States to five.
It has become the norm for the European Tour to have its various ‘swings’ as it tours through many regions in the world before eventually winding its way through its homeland of Europe. This is clearly reaching new audiences despite offering nowhere near the money that the PGA Tour does. Ignoring co-sanctioned events with the PGA Tour, Final Series Events and majors, the biggest first prize does not even reach €1 milion. In fact some tournaments purses are as big as what a single player may earn from winning one tournament across the pond.
The American market is big, but one has to keep in mind that golf is still an expensive game and needs a lot of commitment. Seeing a global star tee it off in a place like Thailand could make a bigger impact on the younger generations than watching Jordan Spieth tee it up at some event in Texas.
Money seems to rule the world of golf, but the question can be asked: Why has the US not made a concerted effort to spread the game in favourable time zones that South and Central America share. It is hard to ignore the impact that advertising and television coverage has on sport from a financial standpoint, however there are ways around this.
Moving a big event to Mexico shows that the PGA Tour is willing to explore outside of its borders, so long as the timezone is right. This means that theoretically placed likes Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and the Caribbean could host tournaments. Players such as Camilo Villegas, Emiliano Grillo, Jhonattan Vegas and and Fabian Gomez are just a few South American players that ply their trade on the PGA Tour and the game is growing well on the continent.
Several years ago, the unheard of Stephen Ames from Trinidad & Tobago (later changed nationality to Canadian) won a PGA Tour event that would have caused a ripple through the Caribbean. No other player has emerged form the region. It’s ironic that the area is peppered with top quality courses.
The PGA Tour has a crowded season, but allowing alternate events in these untapped regions would be a positive. The new WGC-Mexico Championship will prove a false dawn if the PGA Tour goes along with money train in this regard.
By Renton Harries