Keeping Score

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PGA Tour’s payment structure stands out
I would have no problem with the winner in golf taking a bigger share of the purse, but there are three good arguments in favor of the current system, and all derive from the unique nature of pro golf (“PGA Tour goes too far in spreading wealth,” July 9).

First, unlike all other pro sports, the players own their own league. As all of the players who attain exempt status on the PGA Tour have at least an indirect say in how the pot is divided, it is not unreasonable that they would want the wealth shared. The trick is to obtain a balance between keeping all of the Tour happy and keeping the stars happy.

If the top players thought that they were getting a raw deal, then they could set up an alternate league. This is arguably what motivated Greg Norman when he was trying to get worldwide exclusive tournaments, with more money going to the star players. It did not succeed because not enough star players were prepared to buck the existing system.

To forestall a future attempt to create an elite league, then-commissioner Tim Finchem created the WGC events, to get more money into the stars’ pockets. He then furthered that objective with the FedEx Cup. At the same time, unlike tennis, the top players win at a rate of less than 10 percent, unless they are Tiger Woods in his prime. Therefore, it makes financial sense for them to get good paydays when they finish top 10 or top 20.

Though the majors are not owned by the players, they typically pay a higher first-place purse than regular events, even if it is not a higher percentage. They also have significant prestige, which would militate against a boycott by top players to get a larger share of the purse.

Second, and this is connected to the first, most other pro sports have a problem that journeymen players have short careers and no backup life plan. Most of us would like to see a guy who plays two years of football as an offensive lineman not live most of the rest of his life in poverty, even if it meant that Tom Brady or other stars made a few less millions. A journeyman golfer who stays on the PGA Tour for five years – a relatively short career for a golfer – will not have to worry about his financial future.

Third, all golf tournaments, with the possible exception of the Masters, would be unable to function without massive volunteer help. Those volunteers are significantly motivated by the charitable benefits that flow from the Tour. One would have to be very careful not to upset that volunteer commitment by creating a perception that the stars of the game are making too much money.

John Dives
Victoria, British Columbia

PGA Tour players must earn their pay
For someone who probably isn’t very good at golf to call PGA Tour players mediocre is just a joke (“PGA Tour goes too far in spreading wealth,” July 9). What is Alex Miceli’s handicap?

The fact that a guy such as Charles Howell III has played for 20 years and has so many top 10s should be rewarded handsomely. I have no idea why you think the way you do. Take baseball or basketball. Talk about “mediocrity” and players getting paid for doing nothing. At least on the PGA Tour they have to make the cut to get paid anything at all. That is the beauty of golf: they have to earn it.

I am good with the Tour’s decision to pay the winner 20 percent of the purse beginning next year. The fact that Miceli is not is truly sad.

Kendall Eskew

Miceli misses big picture with Tour payouts
I couldn’t disagree more with Alex Miceli (“PGA Tour goes too far in spreading wealth,” July 9).

In the big picture, there is no such thing as a mediocre player on the PGA Tour. It is extremely difficult for a golfer to make it to the Tour, and even harder to stay there. And please, name another sport in which you risk making nothing if you don’t perform well enough in a given event to make the cut.

Miceli mentioned tennis, but a player losing in the first round still makes something. Further, the ATP and WTA are full of players whom Miceli apparently would consider mediocre because they don’t win titles. Miceli mentioned Wimbledon.

I’m fine with paying the winners of golf’s major championships a bigger percentage of the purse, but there are only four of those.

Team sports such as basketball and baseball are littered with “mediocre” players making huge salaries. Professional golf is a true meritocracy. Winning tournaments on the PGA Tour comes with lots of extra rewards, and not just in terms of endorsements but also due to access to high-payout, no-cut events.

Why shouldn’t a guy who consistently places well make a lot of money? I don’t believe there is a single golfer on any professional tour who doesn’t want to win and who doesn’t try to win.

Diana H. Strickler
Charlottesville, Va.

The Topgolf influence
My cousin and I met up recently for a round of golf at a location between us – he lives in Oklahoma and I live in Texas. We played at The Bridges Golf Club in Gunter, Texas. We were paired with a younger gentleman who adamantly said he practiced a lot at Topgolf. Neither I nor my cousin was impressed, but we smiled and welcomed him into our group (“Topgolf scores few points for golf savvy,” July 10).

I teed off, then my cousin and then the youngster. We played the hole, and when we walked to the next tee, the young man suggested that we play “ready golf” and not worry about honors. It wasn’t what me and my cousin were used to, but we agreed. However, we didn’t know that “ready golf” also applied to the fairway, the bunkers and the greens, and racing to the next hole.

This dude would race to his ball, hit it without any hesitation or any sort of awareness that I or my cousin was about to swing, and jump into his cart and speed away. Every green that we hit in regulation within 15 feet of the pin was met by a chip from the side of the green to within 5 feet from Mr. Topgolf. Then, he promptly walked up to his ball, lined it up and hit it and would not stop until he holed out. All the while, my cousin and I stood silently at address over the ball until this guy finished.

No etiquette, rude, insensitive and a downright ass … but by his own admission, a Topgolf pro. He even tried to explain his ranking at the Frisco Topgolf. I interrupted him by asking, “Did you get a double on that last hole?” He did!

This kind of golfer is not what the golf industry should be catering to. Let Topgolf do what it wants. Actual golfers will see what it’s like and happily return to the driving range and continue to hone their craft. Topgolf will be gone in 10 years, and very few will remain, just as with go-cart racing or Putt-Putt.

Kenneth C. Taylor
Fort Worth, Texas

​Another way in which Topgolf differs from ‘real golf’
I had to chuckle while reading Gary Van Sickle's article on the Topgolf explosion (“Topgolf scores few points for golf savvy,” July 10).

I never have visited a Topgolf facility, but his description was almost exactly as I imagined it would be like. Sort of like Frisbee golf or soccer golf. Anything but “real golf.”

A Topgolf is under construction about 10 miles from my home. One fact which the article did not mention is that the Topgolf facilities are eyesores. They tower over everything and can be seen from miles away. In my way of thinking, a golf course adds to the beauty of an area. Topgolf surely does not do that.

Ken Staroscik
Firestone, Colo.

Help wanted: Loud, outrageous, no golf savvy
Gary Van Sickle’s experience at Topgolf does not surprise me (“Topgolf scores few points for golf savvy,” July 10).

I went to a Topgolf job fair when the company opened its facility in Chandler, Ariz., years ago, in part because I was unemployed at the time and in part to see what the fuss was all about. It is, as Van Sickle mentioned, more of a bowling alley than a golf facility. The employees are expected to be loud, outrageous and not particularly golf savvy.

I was invited to hit some balls at one of the bays, but their golf balls reacted more like rocks than range balls. I quickly figured out that it wasn't a place I wanted to work – or even visit – so I bailed out long before the party ended.

Topgolf is nothing more than an indoor/outdoor bar with a golf theme. Real golfers would be better off going to some of the simulator venues that have popped up.

Mike Augsdorfer
Savannah, Ga.

Watson, like Faulkner, knows how to reach a kid
John Fischer’s recap of Max Faulkner’s 1951 British Open win was chocked full of interesting facts (“Colorful Faulkner adds pizzazz to Portrush,” July 10).

I especially enjoyed the anecdote about Faulkner signing the boy's ball before his victory. A similar event happened to me and one of my Korean international students whom I took to the Masters in 2012, when Bubba Watson won and his caddie, Ted Scott, had given me Watson’s ball and I gave it to my Korean “son.” When the student moved back to South Korea and I put him on the plane, he handed me the treasured golf ball of that year's winner and said that it meant more to me than it did to him, and he gave it back to me.

Sharon Stevenson
Acworth, Ga.

‘Everything in perspective’
John Fischer’s article about Max Faulkner was absolutely fantastic (“Colorful Faulkner adds pizzazz to Portrush,” July 10).

I really enjoy reading those pieces as they put everything in perspective relating to my years on earth.

Garen Eggleston
The Villages, Fla.

Even more perspective
I just read John Fischer’s article in the Morning Read and was inspired to say thank you (“Colorful Faulkner adds pizzazz to Portrush,” July 10). What a great read.

Thank you for the history lesson, from shot-making, practicing too much and serving one’s country, first and foremost.

I will watch the British Open next week with a deeper perspective.

Dean Pfau
Rolling Meadows, Ill.

A new member of Faulkner's fan club
What a great story to wake up to (“Colorful Faulkner adds pizzazz to Portrush,” July 10). It was well-researched and -written.

I am hoping to hear Max Faulkner’s name called out during the coverage of the British Open so that I can share my newfound knowledge.

Christopher Murphy
Lansdale, Pa.

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