Now the Shootout Begins : Golf: Upstart World Tour to take on PGA. Norman says response has been overwhelming.
The World Golf Tour arrived Thursday, a little uncertain of its prospects off the tee. Will the venture be a shot straight down the fairway or an ugly snap hook?
At a news conference at Sherwood Country Club, where the Franklin Funds Shark Shootout begins today, Greg Norman and John Montgomery announced an eight-event, $25-million tour for the top 30 players in the world.
The World Tour probably will begin next March, although it already has drawn fire from golf’s Establishment, the PGA Tour.
Montgomery, formerly of Executive Sports, a Florida event management firm, is the new executive director of the World Tour. He credited Norman as the visionary behind the new tour.
“What can I say?” Norman said. “I think it’s fantastic.”
If nothing else, it’s lucrative. Fox Television bought television rights to the World Tour.
Plans call for each of the eight events to have $3 million in prize money, $600,000 for the winner. Last place in the field will be good for $30,000.
The player of the year on the World Tour will receive a $1-million bonus.
In addition, each player who commits to the new tour will receive a $50,000 travel allowance.
Norman, who said the new tour is not ego driven, made a point of the financial rewards built into it.
“Once you have the word professional in front of your name, if you are the best, you deserve a reward,” Norman said. “People out there do not realize what it takes to be at the top of your sport.”
The SONY rankings, a three-year sliding scale of points awarded for performance on certain events, will determine the top 30 players.
World Tour event sponsors can give 10 exemptions to make up a field of 40.
Montgomery said he has spoken with Jack Nicklaus and that Nicklaus plans to play on sponsors’ exemptions.
Besides the money distribution, few details of the new tour were made public.
So far, it has no sponsors, no schedule, no sites and no players, except for Norman.
“The response has been overwhelming,” said Norman, who did not identify any players who had committed to the tour, but read a message of support from Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain.
Montgomery said the World Tour is fielding offers from many prospective sponsors and sites but that any further announcements aren’t likely for 60 days.
Plans call for four World Tour events to be played in the United States and one each in Canada, Scotland, Spain and Japan.
Initial scheduling is for World Tour events to be played the week before major tournaments. Norman said the first event is being planned for before the Masters, which is April 6-9.
That would put the World Tour event opposite the Freeport-McMoRan Classic at New Orleans.
Montgomery said Fox telecasts of the World Tour would run in the same time period of the PGA Tour events.
Nick Price said he stands behind Norman, but with reservations. His reaction seemed fairly typical of the players.
“He has my total support, as long as my position on the PGA Tour isn’t challenged,” Price said.
Price’s influence is vital to the new tour because of his stature. He was the leading money winner on the PGA Tour this season with $1.49 million. He won six tournaments and also is No. 1 in the SONY rankings.
Price said Norman was impulsive and wished that Norman had spoken with PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem before going public with the World Tour plans.
Price said his main concern is “what (the) repercussions from the tour could be,” he said. “I made that clear to Greg.”
Lanny Wadkins said the World Tour must take into account the PGA Tour.
“You just can’t sit there and just . . . on the people who supported you all those years and put you there to begin with,” said Wadkins, the Ryder Cup captain.
“Personally, I think the public has seen enough greed out of athletes.”
At the same time, Price said, the PGA Tour has not taken the lead in accommodating international players and said that was a mistake.
“There was a time when the PGA Tour had the top 30 players in the world, but that’s no longer the case,” he said.
Finchem released a statement Tuesday in which he said the PGA Tour would not permit member players to play on the World Tour.
Finchem spoke out, hoping to soothe nervous sponsors staring at the prospect of the top players skipping their events.
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