Originally created 11/22/06

Bivens could learn from Finchem



It was six years ago when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem brought together leaders of the industry for a conference aimed at taking advantage of golf's growing popularity. Tiger Woods had just completed one of the greatest years in golf with nine victories and three consecutive major titles.

Finchem outlined some bold goals at "Golf 20/20: Vision for the Future." One of them was aimed at the NFL.

"We should consider as our first goal to become the No. 1 sport in fan base, surpassing the NFL by the year 2020 and reaching 177 million fans," he said in November 2000.

He has 14 years left, but the goal looked more out of reach when the PGA Tour revamped its schedule and one of the reasons was to avoid competition with the NFL. Finchem either underestimated the power of football or overestimated the mainstream popularity of golf.

The next commissioner who might fall into that trap is LPGA boss Carolyn Bivens.

During a news conference last week at Trump International, the commissioner talked about moving the LPGA into the mainstream, then defined what she considers her peer groups. She mentioned the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball, NHL - then pausing for effect - "and yes, the PGA Tour."

Careful.

The LPGA Tour is arguably the best women's sports organization because it has succeeded on its own for more than 50 years without any outside help, the way the WNBA leans on the NBA, for example. To compare it with the PGA Tour was not a fair fight.

But if that's what she wants ...

The total prize money on the LPGA Tour this year was about $54 million. Total prize money on the PGA Tour was $260 million.

There were a record 11 millionaires on the LPGA Tour this year. The PGA Tour had 93.

END OF THE DEBATE: Scott Verplank was asked for his thoughts on the new Ryder Cup selection process, and was told that points were only available next year in the majors.

Digesting this for a second, he asked, "Is The Players Championship a major?"

Sorry.

One point for every $1,000 will be awarded at the Masters Tournament, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship.

Another pause from Verplank.

"Well, I guess that confirms it then," he said. "There's only four majors."