Waggle Room - Robert Allenby Would Like Brian Gay to See the World

Published November 22, 2009

Robert Allenby, on the heels of saying the Korean translation of "John Daly is Anthony Kim,"  has made a minor ripple in the golf world with his "American golfers are spoiled" comments. The comments have only made a ripple because:
  • Other players have made similar laments that American golfers don’t travel
  • Allenby may be right
  • Allenby may be a bit of a jerk
Breaking down his comments shows a lack of understanding of the golf world today.
"You know, Americans play for so much money, and when you've got a purse where $1 million, a million plus, is first prize, not to say that they are spoiled, but it's a little bit that way. It's like, well, why would I want to travel, when I can make a million bucks instead of going to Europe and only making $500,000 or $600,000?"
Doing a job in America for one million instead of doing the same job in Europe for $600K isn’t spoiled.  Greedy, perhaps.  Sensible even.
"The reason why I want to travel and play elsewhere is because I want my game to get better, and always, even at the age of 38, I want to get better. And the only way you can get better is to play different golf courses. If you're playing the same golf course every week, every year that you come back to, it just gets a little boring. For me, that's what I've found. I've got a little bit bored playing in America. I'll still play there full time, but I'm still going to try to play more tournaments in Europe at the same time and combine the two together."
I would argue you get better at golf by playing against better players regularly.  And pretty much every metric shows the fields in the average PGA tournament is stronger than the fields in the average Euro PGA tournament.  Why?  See that $1 Million/$600K difference.
"But I just think, you know, they have got it a little bit too easy. It's just everything is handed to them on a silver plate. And not to be rude or anything like that, because I'm very respectful for the amount of money that we do play for in America. We are very lucky and very fortunate. But I think the money that we play for in America, that's the reason why you don't see a lot of Americans or a lot more international players coming over and playing in Europe. They are in a comfort zone, and I think that's pretty much what it is."
Allow me to compare golf to professional soccer.  It is understood that the best club soccer in the world is in Europe.  Leagues in England, Spain, Italy and Germany have the best players from around the world wearing their kits.  They spend the most money and garnish the most attention.   Outside of playing for their country, the majority of talented players would do almost anything to play for Manchester United, or Real Madrid, or Inter Milan.
If Landon Donovan publically complained that European players were spoiled because they didn’t have to leave their continent to play soccer at the highest level, while North and South Americans had to prove themselves in their home leagues to get a shot at the big time, he would be laughed out of the room. 
That is where Allenby makes his mistake.  He assumes the money makes the tournament, as opposed to the money following the tournament.  The purses on the Fall Series are less than tournaments before the Fed Ex Cup because the world of golf has decided they Fall Series tourneys are less prestigious.  The Scottish Open has more than three times the purse than the SAS Masters in Sweden not because the Scottish are awash with cash and the Swedes are paupers.  It has been decided the Scottish Open is more important than the SAS Masters, so the people running the Scottish Open can demand more money from Barclays, ticket purchasers, etc.  The fine southern gentlemen who run the Masters Invitational Tournament could cut prize money for 2010 in half tomorrow and not one eligible golfer would decide playing wasn’t worth his time.
At this point, playing in America is considered more prestigious than playing in Europe.  Or Australia.  Or anywhere else on the planet.  Just ask Rory McIlroy, who will join the US PGA tour in 2010.  Because…
I just feel I will become a better golfer if I also play in America. I will be playing in world class fields with more world ranking points on offer and the only way for me to get better is to play alongside better players.

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