PGA Tour eyes more fan-friendly product

Phil Mickelson celebrates with a group of fans after winning the 2009 WGC-CA Championship.

Phil Mickelson celebrates with a group of fans after winning the 2009 WGC-CA Championship.

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Several proposals that could make the PGA Tour more enjoyable for fans are closer to becoming reality next season:

• A program that would require the PGA Tour’s top players to play events that have struggled to attract big names may be implemented as soon as 2011, according to a PGA Tour memo.

The program, entitled “Designated Tournaments,” would require tournament winners and the top 50 finishers on the FedEx Cup points list to play at least one event per  year among a handful that have been designated by the PGA Tour Policy Board. The proposal would help bring bigger names to events they have bypassed in recent years.

The PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council was “supportive” of the proposal, according to the memo. The proposal will be presented to the PGA Tour Policy Board for preliminary approval on July 27. If subsequently ratified, it would become effective for 2011.

photo

Steve Stricker shakes hands with a fan during the SBS Championship.

“They are going to pick the tournaments that need the help the most, and we’ll go from there,” Steve Stricker, a PAC member, said June 8 at the John Deere Classic’s media day. “But players will be asked to add another event.”

The introduction of the designated tournaments proposal was first reported by Golfweek.

• The PGA Tour will test the miking of players and caddies at the Reno-Tahoe Open, Greenbrier Classic and Turning Stone Resort Championship later this year. Many believe that putting microphones on players and caddies will enhance broadcasts by giving viewers an “inside-the-ropes” view of the discourse between them, especially during shot selection.

The audio collected during the tests will not be broadcast, but used to gauge the audio’s quality and entertainment value. The PGA Tour has recently explored ways to improve telecasts, in part because its contract with NBC and CBS expires in 2012.

The PGA Tour also tested miking players and caddies at last year's Shell Houston Open.

“(Dialogue between players and caddies) is the type of stuff our fans tell us they want to hear more often,” Andy Pazder, senior vice president of tournament administration for the PGA Tour, told the Associated Press last year. “Just like anything, we’re always striving to improve the qualify of the telecast.”

• The PGA Tour may allow fans to bring cell phones to the course during competition days.

Recent research showed that fans considered not having a cell phone for the day a “major hindrance” to attending golf tournaments, according to the Tour memo. The PGA Tour may allow fans to bring phones to a tournament later this year as a test, and could implement the policy as early as 2011.

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