October 13, 2009

Knee-Jerk Reaction

Why did the PGA Tour move so quickly to intervene in the Robert Allenby-Anthony Kim feud? Thomas Bonk explains

The feud between Anthony Kim and Robert Allenby had little appeal to the PGA Tour.

The feud between Anthony Kim and Robert Allenby had little appeal to the PGA Tour.

So what happened quicker? The U.S. deflating the International team in the Presidents Cup, or the PGA Tour taking the air out of the tires of the shortest-running dispute in the tour's history, Robert Allenby vs. Anthony Kim?

It's Allenby-Kim by a mile. On Wednesday morning, Rick George, the tour's executive vice president and chief of operations, was compelled to issue a statement through the tour's public relations branch, saying the dispute is over, without ever really explaining what it was about in the first place.

You may know the storyline: Allenby loses to Kim in their singles match Sunday at Harding Park and then tells some reporters that Kim had been out until 4 a.m., that friends told him Kim arrived at the players' hotel "sideways"; that Kim was the "loosest cannon" on the U.S. team; and that Kim is basically a John Daly-type in training.

Kim denied it all when asked.

Anyway, the story breaks Monday, it's a hot topic Tuesday, the announcement from Ponte Vedra Beach comes Wednesday and presumably we're all over it on Thursday, so we can concentrate fully on Justin Timberlake's tournament.

This looks like a good time to hit rewind, now that the verbiage has cooled. The fact that this whole episode occurred isn't that surprising, really. Allenby is one of the straightest-talkers out there and is not the shy type when asked his opinion. As for Kim, he's been open enough, maybe too much, because he's attracting a reputation for just the kind of episodes that Allenby alleged.

Whether this one was real or not, it was still an alarming enough topic for the tour to step in immediately, before it picked up any more traction, At the present, it's a titillating conversation, nothing more.

But dig deeper and you are probably going to figure out why the tour stuck its hands in the thing. In that media release, there was a statement not just from George, but also from Allenby (who apologized and said his comments were taken out of context) and from Kim (who accepted the apology and said he's moving on).

As for the tour's reason for getting involved, where was the tour statement when Tiger Woods' caddie Steve Williams and Phil Mickelson had their little disagreement? Why did the tour jump in this one? There are three factors.

Kim is 24, an up-and-coming star, a Ryder Cup winner already, now a Presidents Cup winner, too, and he's becoming an important brand for the PGA Tour. He's one of the building blocks on which the tour will move forward, with contracts for many tournament title sponsors expiring in the next several years. He's key. He records public service announcements on behalf of the tour. He is one of the poster boys for the These-Guys-Are-Cool (and gentlemen, too) public relations stance that the tour likes to promote. He doesn't need any blemishes.

The Presidents Cup just ended and there can't be anything to mess it up. Besides the Players, it's the most important event the PGA Tour conducts. The tour is riding a high after Harding Park, so the desired residual after-effects should be sunshine and green lights, not bad feelings generated from some back-and-forth grousing between two opposing players.

Allenby said the magic words: John Daly. Any mention of Daly, the antithesis of the tour's good-guy image is the exact opposite of what they're after. The word Daly is a deal-breaker, so it gave the tour sweaty armpits immediately, and a call to action was the only course.