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PGA Tour and NASCAR: An insidious media coupling?

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

Have you noticed all those comparisons in the media between the PGA Tour's new FedEx Cup to NASCAR's Nextel Cup?

Tim Finchem
Finchem: Taking media cues from NASCAR.
Tim FinchemJack Nicklaus

It starts with a mention here and there by Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem. A couple of underlings join the chorus.

Then a reporter picks it up, then another. And pretty soon, you can't read a story or hear a TV report about the FedEx Cup without hearing how it was inspired by the good ol' boys down Carolina way.

Is it a vast right-wing conspiracy?

Here's another way the cutting-edge golf boys are following the unsophisticated marketing ways of the rubes: wall-to-wall product placement. You can't watch a Tour event these days without seeing the FedEx logo plastered everywhere. It's even been elbowing title sponsors out of the way. And when the title sponsor gets pushed aside, you know there's clout involved.

Except in "select" tournaments. Associated Press golf writer Doug Ferguson points out that the FedEx logo was mysteriously missing from Arnold Palmer's little invitational in Orlando, even though Palmer's tournament doesn't have a title sponsor. And it won't be there when Mr. Jack Nicklaus puts on his little Memorial shindig.

That would be vulgar, say the mouthpieces of the great men. Would you have these noblemen sullied by the stigma of filthy lucre?

The Canadian Open, well, that's another matter.

Tournament Director Bill Paul told AP he asked the Tour honchos about the preferential treatment and got a deafening non-response.

"My only take is that Mr. Nicklaus and Mr. Palmer have different rules," Paul said. "I know all Mr. Palmer and Mr. Nicklaus have done for the game, but I don't think it's right."

NBC, CBS and Golf Channel gear up

Palmer and Nicklaus may be above the crass and vulgar mass marketing of the FedEx Cup, but not so you, Mr. Average Golf Fan.

As if you haven't heard enough already, prepare to be further inundated by the biggest advertising campaign in PGA Tour history, a $25 million extravaganza featuring the sport's biggest names.

And yes, that includes Tiger Woods, who has thus far been tantalizingly lukewarm about the big-bang finish.

The Tour is deathly afraid Tiger and maybe even Phil Mickelson and a second-tier superstar or two won't catch FedEx fever, despite all the bought-and-paid-for hoopla, and the season will end with a $10 million dud.

Woods is one of 20 players involved in the ad campaign, which will be seen on NBC, CBS and the Golf Channel and in major print publications. Woods is reportedly doing his bit for free.

PGA fields getting smaller

Another ink-stained wretch (how come you never get the good stuff from the pretty boys on TV?) has an interesting take on the dramatic increase in invitational tournaments.

In a column for online magazine Sports Central, Ryan Ballengee points that 15 of the 36 events on the FedEx schedule are limited-field events.

What's the big deal? The average Tour journeyman has less chance to make a paycheck; the bigger stars not only get bigger paychecks, they are guaranteed money. Ballengee says the "Fall Series" is little more than the also-rans fighting over table scraps.

"It is not hard to see what the Tour is doing here," he writes. "They are furthering the divide between the two PGA Tours - the one for the players already crowned stars and the one for everybody else.

"If you can find a way to climb into the upper echelon of the PGA Tour and get into the 'haves' club, then life is pretty peachy."

Then again, it's a little difficult to get stirred up over this polarization of millionaires. Forget the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. In this case the fabulously wealthy get obscenely wealthy and the merely rich get merely richer.

Media training for PGA pros

We'll end with this huge news (yes, I'm burying the lead): PGA Tour players are signing up for media training at the Houston Open! They'll take in exciting seminars like "Deliver more value to your sponsors, your tour and yourself" and "Learns the do's and don'ts of an effective interview."

Here's a free tip: Don't use phrases like "do's and don'ts."

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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