So, there are no guarantees in life, huh?
Whatever bean counter, stock trader, actuarial analyst or Haight-Ashbury burnout first uttered that phrase obviously didn't envision the state of professional golf in the current era.
|Chris DiMarco has seen golf's exclusive events from inside and outside. (Getty Images)|
In short, there's no cut for the Fat 40, and thus, very lucrative forms of fun are ensured for all. It's a terrific formula for the fortunate invitees: You sign up, they sign a paycheck.
Guaranteed paydays at no-cut stops are a tournament model that's spreading, to the exclusion of the rank-and-file guys who don't get any bites at comparable apples. The closed-shop tournaments include the four World Golf Championships events, two FedEx Cup series stops and the season opener at Kapalua. If golf is the ultimate meritocracy, why are so many tournaments forking over hundreds of thousands, plus prime world ranking points, to guys who barely stayed upright for the week?
"When you are in the World Golf Championships, it's hard not to make half a million," veteran Chris DiMarco said this week. "You almost have to play pitiful."
Keep that last term in mind.
After a two-event Asian sojourn is completed following the WGC event next week in China, the PGA Tour will have finished its final guaranteed-money, limited-field event of the year. The CIMB, conjured up in midseason as a means of getting a foot in the Asian market, became the eighth sanctioned event on the 2010 American schedule that featured no cut and 80 players or fewer.
Everybody who plays, you know, gets a little something for the effort -- only that something isn't so little. Speaking of obscure Caddyshack references, maybe we need to slightly tweak the movie's closing line from Al Czervik: "Hey everybody, we're all gonna get paid."
The cash grab begins with the annual PGA Tour season-opener in Hawaii, which is limited to those who won an official tournament the year before. Then throw in WGC events in Tucson, Miami and Akron -- none this year finished with more than 80 players in the field -- and next week's HSBC Champions in China, which had 77 players in 2009.
Two of the four FedEx Cup events, the BMW Championship and Tour Championship, don't have cuts and offer guaranteed paydays, with 70 players at the former and 30 at the latter. Scotland's Martin Laird pocketed $120,000 for finishing dead last at the Tour Championship in August, which represents the biggest official paycheck issued to PGA Tour road kill in 2010.
DiMarco, 42, has certainly experienced both sides of the spectrum. Five years ago, he was a top 10 player who received invitations to the WGCs, not to mention unofficial cash grabs like Sun City and the Tiger Woods tournament in December. Now he can see that, with those mini-tournaments all currently receiving world-ranking points, it's becoming a self-sustaining cycle for the top dogs.
Once you scale the elitist wall and are gleaning ranking points for even modest finishes against tiny fields, it's hard to get kicked out of the club. Six years ago, DiMarco said that a player who won a tournament would have to fall down dead not to win $1 million the following year because of the green-light access to top events it ensured. With inflation and the increase in no-cut fields, he might have low-balled it.
"Seeing the other side of it, when you are there, you are not really looking at what guys did to get there," he said of his WGC days. "You are just, 'I am not asking any questions, I'm here, I don't want to know anything.'
"When you are not there, you kind of look at it and do play devil's advocate. You do ask if it is fair or unfair."
Beyond the exclusionary aspects, there's the economics. Because the sheer number of guaranteed-money tournaments has become borderline ridiculous, we tallied up the dollar amount a guy finishing dead last in each of the eight no-cut events staged in 2010, uh, earned. The total number would make any hardhat-and-lunchpail type cringe, and would surely cause some white-collar folks to gag a bit, too.
Predicated on the assumption that a player was eligible to compete in all eight of the limited-field, no-cut events and finished dead last in each, his projected payout for 2010 would total $401,500.
How's that for a 401(k) plan, huh? Show up, keep up, add it up. Meanwhile, among the mortals, DiMarco has made 13 consecutive cuts but is buried at No. 165 on the money list with an almost identical $400,040.
The common term for finishing at the bottom of the tourney heap is DFL, which stands for dead freaking last. At the eight no-cut events, it ought to mean Dumptrucks of Free Lucre.
"There you go," DiMarco laughed. "If you add that [no-cut tournament tally] number to my year, I have nothing to worry about."
DiMarco didn't play in any of the eight no-cut tournaments and instead is mulling a return trip to Q-school. By way of explanation, the DFL earnings figure for the eight no-cut events includes the projected check for last place this week at the CIMB, which pays a stout $50,000, and 2009's dead-last payout at the 77-player HSBC, which was worth $25,000. Duly noted is the fact that the CIMB and HSBC winnings don't count toward the PGA Tour money list, but the cash still spends just the same.
No cut, no blood, indeed. It goes without saying that a player must be performing at a high level to qualify for all eight of the guaranteed-money starts, winning at least once in the previous season and generally ranking among the top 64 players in the world to be eligible for participation in all four WGC events. But from there, it's not a matter of whether, but how much, they'll get paid.
Wonder why some of the lesser tournaments from Greensboro to Greenbrier are having a hard time drawing premier players? There are so many big-money events these days, with free show-up money on the table, the top guns don't need to bother with small-market fare.
Making the have-not divide all the more noticeable is the fact that the Asian no-cut stops are staged the week before the PGA Tour's full-field finale at Disney World, where guys who struggle not only won't get paid a guaranteed cent, they face losing their tour card for 2011. Moreover, the top-tier guys who are still playing in the fall aren't going to fly from China to Orlando for the season finale, so the overseas cash grabs mean the Disney field is lacking in star power. Last year, one player teed it up in both China and Orlando.
"It's killing us," Disney tournament director Kevin Weickel said Tuesday.
It's making the journeymen players take note, too, albeit mostly for small-picture, financial reasons.
"Everything goes back to [former commissioner] Deane Beman, and he said it best," DiMarco said. "There are two words: Play better. If you play better, everything comes with it. The better you play, the more things you are given."
With an increased emphasis on the "give." As it stands, the final three-week stretch of the PGA Tour season thus represents the increasingly disparate yin and yang of the professional game.
Actually, for the lucky ones, let's change it to yen.