It's an annual discussion: how to enlarge the field at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions so that it doesn't dilute the concept of a champions-only event, but opens it up to more big names that did not win a PGA Tour event in the prior 12 months.
The issue is that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will never make the trip to Hawaii to play in the Tour's now-calendar-opener. That means two perpetual top-10 players are guaranteed not to be in the field despite practically being mortal locks to win an event. What to do?
One of the ideas floating about is to offer a 2-year exemption into the TOC to players who win on the PGA Tour. Meh.
The other is to offer spots to any player who qualifies for the Tour Championship the previous season. That's better, but those guys get a lot of breaks as it is.
But there's a way to keep the Tournament of Champions for winners only. Make the event into a World Golf Championships event, offering a spot only to players that have won on the PGA Tour and European Tour, as well selected other events, in the prior 12 months. That doubles the number of players who can be invited to the tournament, offering a chance to land big and/or exotic names from the European Tour. It maintains the true spirit of the TOC.
For those saying we don't need another WGC, there's already another one floating out there which isn't even being used at the moment. The so-called Tournament of Hope, procured by the Sunshine Tour in South Africa in 2011 in a trade for a schedule shift to allow Ernie Els to participate in the Presidents Cup, was supposed to be off the ground already. It's never been played. Conveniently, the European Tour's take on the Tournament of Champions, the Volvo Golf Champions is played in South Africa. The tournament could move between Kapalua and South Africa each year, giving three tours a chance to feel like they're hosting the event without really messing with what's already in place.
The qualification criteria for this hypothetical WGC would be somewhat unique. The Match Play is purely based on the Official World Golf Ranking. Doral is all based on rankings of different varieties. Firestone is a winners tournament, but with extra watered-down criteria and caveats on which wins count toward qualifying. Don't even try to figure out the criteria for the HSBC Champions. Someone just taps you on the shoulder and tells you the passcode.
So if there's a need to change the Tournament of Champions, do this. Keep it for winners only. Hell, add in the FedEx Cup champion if you must. But you know what would really do the trick to improve the field? Pay Tiger and Phil seven-figure appearance fees.
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