The PGA Tour's field quality question

There have been two tours since Tiger Woods burst onto the scene in the late 1990s. There is the Tiger Tour, and the "other" events. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)


What would happen if the world's biggest star did not compete on the PGA Tour?

Imagine Tiger Woods winning all those majors, but only playing in the U.S. six or seven times a year.

The PGA Tour may soon face this problem if European Tour players Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer or Lee Westwood become the dominant players in the world. Many think McIlroy is on chapter one of that story now, so it's far from far-fetched.

It's part of a larger issue the PGA Tour is dealing with as Tiger's career takes a dip -- the quality of the week-to-week fields.

There have been two tours since Tiger burst onto the scene in the late 1990s. There is the Tiger Tour, and the "other" events.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem actually called them "the other events" on Wednesday. And this year that includes the AT&T National at Aronimink, which begins Thursday morning.

It's been a 14-year struggle to get strong fields for tournaments where Tiger Woods does not play on his regular yearly schedule.

Here is the Tiger Tour:

Torry Pines, WGC Match Play, Doral, Bay Hill, Masters, Quail Hollow, The Players, Memorial, U.S. Open, AT&T National, British Open, WGC Bridgestone, PGA, playoffs (Barclays, Deutsche Bank, BMW ), Tour Championship, and Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup.

That's not a lot, and there are many traditionally good events in between where the fields have lacked star power.

But now that Tiger's career is taking a dip, it seems like a perfect time for other players to grab the spotlight and help carry the tour into a new generation.

The problem is that McIlroy, Kaymer and Westwood are three of the leading contenders to take that role and they only pop over the pond a few times a year -- three of which are the majors.

Even THAT wouldn't be a huge deal except that they're WINNING the majors now. McIlroy won the U.S. Open two weeks ago, and Kaymer is the defending champion at the PGA.

So Finchem has had it suggested to him that he alter rules for allowing non-Tour players (read: R.O.R.Y.) to get more exemptions into non-majors on the PGA Tour. He's not crazy about the idea and didn't seem very concerned by it.

But if McIlroy, Kaymer or Westwood win the British Open and/or the PGA, he'll have no choice but to reconsider his position because the PGA Tour simply cannot watch another tour boast the world's three best players.

-- Gary Potosky