September 3, 2007

One Cup Too Many

Overlap of Tour Championship and Solheim Cup hurts golf

If they had talked would we have two Cups at the same time?

If they had talked would we have two Cups at the same time?

Most everyone who attended the 2003 Solheim Cup in Barsebäck, Sweden, including the vanquished U.S. team, returned to the United States feeling they had just experienced a truly remarkable sporting event. Great golf. Large, enthusiastic galleries. And a bit of history since it was the first time the Solheim Cup had been played on the European mainland. Those fortunate enough to be there also returned to find that precious few in America saw any of the wonderful spectacle.

The first problem was the six-hour time difference between Sweden and the East Coast of the United States. Also, SKY TV, which was showing the Solheim Cup in Europe, was airing the Lancôme Trophy on the men's European Tour as well. That forced the singles matches to end at 2 p.m. Sunday -- 8 a.m. in New York. But the singles were such a rout the clinching point was won at 7 a.m. EDT, and 4 a.m. in California. Wonder how many were watching Golf Channel for that?

The Solheim Cup is back in Sweden next week, but things are going to be better for TV viewers. Golf Channel will have live coverage from 2 a.m. to noon (ET) for Friday's and Saturday's competition and from 4-10 a.m. Sunday. A three-hour repeat will be shown Saturday night and a 2½-hour rebroadcast Sunday, plus opening and closing ceremonies and post-round wrap-ups. That's good. Now if only the rest of the sports world had cooperated.

The Solheim Cup is Sept. 14-16. The New York Yankees are playing the Boston Red Sox that weekend, and that's one of the best rivalries in sports. Another good game, Tennessee versus Florida in college football, will be played Saturday afternoon. Such is the crowded competitive landscape of sports. It would be nice if there was nothing else of note going on in golf -- except that day is also the conclusion of the FedEx Cup playoffs at the Tour Championship.

Isn't this a case where the LPGA Tour's Carolyn Bivens (left) and the PGA Tour's Tim Finchem should have worked together? When Tiger Woods came along, the phrase thrown around was, "A rising tide lifts all boats." The attention Tiger got would be good for the overall game of golf. Having the Solheim Cup and the Tour Championship on the same weekend isn't ideal for either tour.

Here's the skinny: In October 2004 the venue was announced for the 2007 Solheim Cup. In August 2005 the dates were released. In November 2005 the FedEx Cup was unveiled. Maybe there was no way to avoid the conflict of dates, but sources familiar with the situation say there were no conversations between the two tours on how to work out the matter. That seems like a mistake.

The LPGA is growing in popularity. The PGA Tour needs to see that development is good for the overall golf economy. The Solheim Cup and the FedEx Cup are fighting not only for TV viewers, but column inches in newspapers, covers of magazines and mentions on TV and radio sports shows. Wouldn't it be better to have the two fighting other sports and not each other for attention? Shouldn't the tours be able to work that out?