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Five Biggest Questions For The 2009 PGA Tour Season

The 2008 PGA Tour season has provided us with some shocking moments to say the least.
So, what are the biggest questions looming as we head towards the 2009 season?  
The 2008 PGA Tour season has provided us with some shocking moments to say the least.

Tiger Woods won the US Open on one leg before shutting it down for the rest of the season to undergo reconstructive knee surgery.

The Americans brought home the Ryder Cup for the first time in nearly a decade.

Could we have finally seen the emergence of some legitimate competition for Tiger Woods in Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas?

2008 has been one for the history books, both for the PGA Tour and for the country at large.

So what are the biggest questions looming as we head towards the 2009 season?

5) Will Phil Mickelson Win Another Major?

The amount of attention Phil Mickelson has been giving to the majors has reached legendary proportions in recent years.

A few weeks prior to every major championship, images begin to emerge of Mickelson, along with short game coach Dave Peltz, breaking down the host courses from every angle imaginable.

Mickelson and Peltz appear to do everything short of scanning the greens with magnified glasses.

However, this strategy has not yet panned out for Mickelson. In fact, Mickelson’s performance at the majors has actually gotten worse.

Mickelson ended the 2005 season with a win at the PGA Championship, which he followed with a win at the first major of the 2006 season, the Masters.

In 2006, Mickelson went on to finish 2nd in the US Open, 22nd at the British Open and 16th at the PGA Championship, respectably.

2007 marked the beginning of Mickelson’s new routine of preparing for the majors weeks in advance of the event, a strategy that has so far proved to be unsuccessful.

In 2007, Mickelson finished 24th at the Masters, missed the cut at both the US and British Opens and wrapped up the year’s majors by finishing in a tie for 32nd at the PGA Championship.

In 2008, Mickelson finished 5th at the Masters, 18th at the US Open, 19th at the British Open and 7th at the PGA Championship, an improvement upon his 2007 stats but not nearly the type of performance expected from the second best player on the face of the planet.

Mickelson turns 39 next year so needless to say, time is beginning to run out on his prime.

With 34 career PGA Tour wins and 3 majors, Mickelson has a spot reserved for him in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

However, if Mickelson wants to enter that conversation of all-time golfing greats, he will need to win at least a couple of more majors before his prime passes him by.

4) Will the Young Guns Build Upon their 2008 Performance?

Could we have finally seen the emergence of some legitimate competition for Tiger Woods?

Just the thought of it makes golf fans as giddy as a child on Christmas morning.

Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas burst onto golf’s main stage over the course of the 2008 season.

Kim won the Wachovia Championship as well as the AT&T National, hosted by Tiger Woods.

Villegas won the final two FedEx Cup events with wins at the BMW Championship and The Tour Championship.

So what makes these two young stars different from all those who have gone before them?

We thought Mickelson could have been the Palmer to Tiger’s Nicklaus when he won the 2005 Masters but, as we all know, that didn’t quite pan out as we had hoped.

We thought a young, confident Sergio Garcia could step up and challenge Woods early on in his career. Although Garcia has made a resurgence in 2008, he has yet to provide Woods with any real test in a major championship.

If Kim and Villegas were to crumble in Wood’s path to shattering every record in the book, they certainly would not be the first.

However, Kim and Villegas contain a quality that is difficult to describe; some refer to it as `the X-Factor’.

Many have crumbled in Woods wake largely due to pure intimidation.

Kim and Villegas on the other hand exude a confidence that says “I don’t care who you are, I am going to find a way to beat you”.

Kim’s performance at the Ryder Cup clearly displayed just how confident he is.

Many believe that the Ryder Cup produces some of the most stressful situations in all of golf.

Kim not only thrived under the intense Ryder Cup pressure but he actually seemed to enjoy it.

Kim’s absolute thrashing of Sergio Garcia in his Sunday singles match at the Ryder Cup shifted that all important moment toward the American’s side and made Kim arguably the American’s most valuable player of the 2008 Ryder Cup.

Villegas, at the age of 26, is a few years older than Kim and has taken a little longer really excel on the PGA Tour.

However, in 2008, Villegas definitely arrived.

Villegas’ swing might not look as smooth as some of the other young up-and-coming stars such as Adam Scott or Anthony Kim, but Villegas gets it done when it counts.

In 2008, Villegas clearly displayed his ability to make the big shot in the most crucial of situations, a skill critical for challenging Woods.

So, have we finally seen the emergence of a few players that have the talent and mindset to challenge Woods?

Have we possible even seen the emergence of a new `Big-3′?

Time will tell but Kim and Villegas have given golf fans their greatest hope in quite some time of finally seeing Tiger Woods involved in some intense Sunday duals.

3) What Will Be Done To The FedEx Cup?

Plain and simple, the FedEx Cup has so far been a complete failure; there is no way of sugarcoating it.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem looked as if he was at a cross between being livid and downright embarrassed as he handed Vijay Singh the FedEx Cup trophy while Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas were still out on the course battling it out for the Tour Championship.

Although it has not been publicized, surely some heads must have rolled at Federal Express and the PGA Tour over what has transpired over the past two years at the FedEx Cup.

Other than a point system that you need a Doctorate degree from Harvard University to understand, the main reason why the FedEx Cup has faltered is because it is a playoff system that does not provide a climactic ending.

The FedEx Cup is the NFL Playoffs with no Super Bowl, the NBA Playoffs with no Finals, and the NCAA College Basketball Tournament with no Final Four.

Being faced with increasing competition from the European Tour and their newly founded `Race to Dubai’, which has already started garnering the attention of some of the biggest names on the PGA Tour, Tim Finchem and Federal Express are under more pressure to come up with a legitimate solution to the current FedEx Cup debacle.

If the FedEx Cup does not provide some exciting events and moments in the coming years it will be extinct within five years.

2) How Will The Financial Crises Affect The PGA Tour?

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past four months you will know all to well that we have gotten ourselves, as a country, into the biggest financial mess since the Great Depression.

Every aspect of the business world will be touched in some form or another by the inevitable deep recession we are heading into, and at the end of the day, sports is a business.

Perhaps no other sporting league has the potential to be as detrimentally affected by the financial crises as the PGA Tour.

Wachovia Bank who sponsors the Wachovia Championship in North Carolina, which typically draws one of the strongest non-majors fields, has already been acquired by Wells Fargo to avoid going completely bankrupt.

We have without question not seen the last financial institution to fall and we are likely to see several auto manufacturers file for bankruptcy or even possibly go completely out of business in the coming months and years.

So how does this affect the PGA Tour?

Well, Twenty out of the forty-eight PGA Tour title sponsors are either in the financial or auto industry, two industries that will likely be demolished by this recession.

Luckily the PGA Tour has most of their current sponsorship deals locked up through the 2010 season. However, there is not much they can do if one of their title sponsors goes completely out of business.

The financial crises will also negatively affect tournament crowds.

Prior to this recent financial downturn, the game of golf was beginning to open up to the masses.

Whereas golf used to be a sport played only by the ultra-wealthy, the game has recently captured the interest of many middle-lower income fans, thanks in large part to Tiger Woods and the significant impact he has had on growing the popularity of the game.

Crowd sizes at PGA Tour events have never been larger than what we have seen in recent years.

But, will all of those middle-lower income fans still be able to afford to attend a golf tournament in the midst of a massive recession that might very well have cost them their jobs?

As mentioned before, every aspect of the business world will be negatively affected by the recession we are heading into and the PGA Tour is not at all immune to this.

1) How Will Tiger Bounce Back From His Reconstructive ACL Surgery?

The content of the golfing record books and the pockets of the PGA Tour are largely dependent upon how Tiger Woods recovers from the reconstructive ACL surgery that prematurely ended his 2008 season.

If Woods is able to return to his pre-surgery form, watch out world, the man is easily on pace to break just about every record there is.

Woods, who currently has fourteen career major wins, is easily on pace to surpass Nicklaus’ record of 18 major wins in the next few years.

If Woods surgery has no long term physical affect on his game, Woods will likely shatter Nicklaus record, accumulating somewhere in the vicinity to 25-30 major wins over the next 10-15 years.

The PGA Tour’s finances are also largely resting on Woods’ ability to come back strong in 2009.

Sure, for the true die-hard golf fan, the remainder of the 2008 season after Woods departure was still exciting. However, crowd sizes and tv ratings were abysmal without the presence of Tiger Woods.

If Woods is able to come back strong in 2009, it will not only allow us to resume watching the history of golf rewritten right before our eyes, but he could also provide a plug to the amount of money the PGA Tour is sure to hemorrhage in 2009.

Woods will boost the ratings, increase crowd sizes and also offer the PGA Tour another selling point to t potential sponsors, whether that be new title sponsors or replacements for the one’s that have gone belly-up.

Much depends on how well Woods recovers from his knee surgery, not the least of which is our own selfish desire to simply sit back, relax and watch golf history being made right before our eyes.

2 replies on “Five Biggest Questions For The 2009 PGA Tour Season”

I like it, but… you missed a huge part of the sponsorship that could have spurred debate.

Now that Buick has dropped Tiger Woods, what will be next.

I think that Mickleson is over-thinking it. Concocting dumb strategies like not even putting a driver in his bag at Torrey Pines shows that he’s letting this get to him. He was always better when he played fast and loose (except 2006 US Open).

I think Tiger will be fine. Last report I heard he was walking around caddying for somebody without a limp so hopefully he’ll be back playing before the Masters.

I like the theory of having a playoff system, but it definitely needs overhauled. Maybe it just needs Tiger.

Good article by the way.

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