While I’m not as incensed as I initially was when I read about PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem writing letters to tournament directors on behalf of Steve Elkington, I still find it completely absurd and unfair to the hundreds of other players vying for sponsors exemptions.
In case you missed it, the AP’s Doug Ferguson got a hold of the memo Finchem sent to tournament directors explaining why Elkington, a former PLAYERS champion who lost his Tour card after finishing 183rd on the money list last season, needed invitations this year. It’s all pretty amazing, just see for yourself:
“Because Steve will be in the conditionally exempt Past Champions category in 2010 after so many years as an exempt member, we felt it was prudent to inform you of his situation as he will be writing many of you requesting a sponsor exemption,” Finchem said in the memo. “Please do not construe this communication as an endorsement for him to receive a sponsor exemption. Rather, it is merely intended to present you the facts of his 2010 eligibility status.”
No idea how that would be interpreted as anything other than something called heavy-handed tactics to pressure tournament directors into granting Elkington exemptions. It also smells strongly of blatant favoritism and a conflict of interest on Finchem’s part. So how do other players in the same boat as Elkington feel? David Duval and Tim Herron aren’t happy:
“I think it’s out of line,” said David Duval, a former major champion who also has only conditional status this year. “It never crossed my mind to ask Tim to do that for me.”
“That’s terrible of the tour,” Herron said from Bay Hill, where he is playing as a past champion. “The tour needs to be unbiased and treat everyone the same. That’s like a slap in the face. Nothing against Steve Elkington. But the tour is supposed to represent the players as a whole, and not just one player.”
Duval also questioned why Finchem pointed to Elkington’s past feats:
“Isn’t that kind of already known?” Duval said. “I assume they know I won the Open Championship and The Players Championship. I wrote all my letters by hand. I told them how much I’ve enjoyed their event, how much I’ve supported their event and that I hope there’s room for me. I didn’t get any offers to have a letter written on my behalf.”
Well, apparently the Commish thought it would be helpful to give tournament directors a friendly reminder. It’s unclear what exactly prompted Finchem to send the memo (did Elkington ask him?). But that’s besides the point — I can’t possibly think of a valid excuse or how this could be seen as appropriate. And nothing against Elkington, but I’d like to know what makes him so damn special.
I also wonder how John Daly feels about the situation. Maybe he’ll tweet Finchem’s cell number to his legion of fans so they can complain.