The Loop

Verdi: Lawyer Decof Thinks Players Union is Possible

April 10, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Among the interested observers at Augusta National for Thursday's opening round of the Masters was Leonard Decof, the high-profile lawyer who probably didn't get his badge from friends at the PGA Tour. He probably doesn't have any, after years of asking tough questions.

Decof recently joined with Greg Norman in requesting a look at the tour's financial statements. That didn't happen, nor did Decof's attempt with a number of players 10 years ago to form an association. The effort just didn't gain any traction because, as independent contractors, golfers can't join a union, right?

"Wrong," said Decof. "That's a myth. The Screen Actors' Guild. Ever heard of it? Screen Writers' Guild? They're all independent contractors, but they have unions."

Decof has heard recent rumblings about how some tour golfers want more representation. He has no idea whether this gesture will gain momentum, or fizzle, but he has opinions about what golfers are earning and what they deserve.

"The guys on the PGA Tour are the most underpaid athletes in the world," said Decof. "Tiger Woods is the most famous athlete in the world, and he made $11 million last year? When Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees made $26 million? Phil Mickelson didn't even make $6 million? That's what utility shortstops make for hitting .225. Plus, golfers have no guaranteed contracts, no tenure, and if they get injured, they're out of luck. But if they want to seek a greater voice, they need more than just a few players and obviously, it wouldn't hurt to have big names on board."

--Bob Verdi