As the PGA Tour kicks off for the first time since 1996 without Tiger Woods, it looks for new ways to attract fans. The Kenny G Gold Pro-Am anyone?
1. No Tiger, No Problem—Fins Cup Tees Off Honda Classic Week With the PGA Tour's top draw, Tiger Woods, prolonging his leave of absence from golf, networks that broadcast PGA tournaments can expect to lose $10 million to $20 million in advertising revenue this season. And while most of Woods' remaining sponsors have issued statements in support of the disgraced golfer, Pepsico (PEP) subsidiary Gatorade severed ties with Woods last weekend. The Honda Classic, teeing off in South Florida this week, is testament to how business and professional golf are making do in a Tigerless world. The PGA Tour has hardly stopped holding tournaments because of Woods' absence—the Tour's first stop on the Florida Swing, this week's Honda Classic at PGA National—boasts a strong field, underscored by a group of high-profile international players. The tournament is also a prime example of the PGA Tour's commitment to funneling millions of charitable dollars each year to the communities in which its events take place. American Honda (HMC) is the longest active Title Sponsor on the PGA Tour—it has backed pro golf for 29 years. American Honda has given over $17 million to charity since the inception of the Honda Classic. The auto company's other major sports-related assets include Anaheim's Honda Center, Indy Racing, Honda L.A. Marathon, and the annual Rose Parade. In keeping with Honda Classic Executive Director Ken Kennerly's goal of appealing to fans beyond professional golf and giving back to regional communities, the entertainment focus will take many forms. The Fins Cup Pro-Am—attracting current and former Dolphins, including Chad Henne, Keith Byars, and Bob Griese—kicks off tournament week on Monday. The Kenny G Gold Pro-Am, hosted by the famed saxophonist, will be held Wednesday, with Jack Nicklaus set to participate in the host's group. Thursday night, Kenny G will perform a benefit concert, with all proceeds benefiting Children's Healthcare Charity. Throughout the tournament, the Honda Classic will featured a 2,000-square-foot wine garden bordering the 17th hole—the tail end of the infamous three-hole Bear Trap. Two of the spotlight labels are from past Honda Classic champions Ernie Els (Englebrecht Els) and Luke Donald (Luke Donald Chardonnay). Family Day will be Saturday, Mar. 6, including a Radio Disney Interactive Party at the Honda Pavilion next to the putting green with arts and crafts, face-painting, and a Wii challenge station. And yes, between these activities some world-class golf will be played. 2. Labor Issues Hit Both Kinds of Football The MLS collective bargaining agreement deadline has passed, and the NFL's looms on Friday. In both football sports, the leagues and the players' unions appear to be too far apart on too broad of a range of issues to come to agreement soon, so the picture on the pitch is now pretty clear: disruptions lie ahead. In Major League Soccer, the MLS CBA expired Jan. 31 and has since been extended—for now, to allow training camps to continue before the scheduled season start date of Mar. 25. The biggest issue keeping the two sides apart is free agency, which, amazingly enough in 2010, does not exist within the league. MLS owners and league officials are currently adamant that they will not consider even limited free agency rights for players, citing their single-entity status and a desire to maintain parity among the league's 16 clubs. According to SportsBusiness Daily, MLS owners are willing to guarantee contracts for a portion of the player pool and have agreed to reduce the number of options within a player's contract. The league's current age restriction within the threshold for a guaranteed contract is also a major issue among players, but it's a term on which MLS owners appear unwilling to budge. Because they have limited leverage, and because MLS has stated that it is willing to play the entire 2010 season under the terms of the existing CBA, striking is the best tactic the players can use to get the issues resolved to their satisfaction. If players were to strike, MLS would probably, though reluctantly, lock them out—an awful PR move in a World Cup year and a season in which a new club, the Philadelphia Union, is scheduled to take the pitch at PPL Park (thanks to a 11-year, $20 million naming-rights deal with the energy company) and the Red Bulls' much anticipated stadium is set to open in New York. In the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell is speaking with the league's full ownership about the labor situation on Tuesday at the spring owners meetings in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. There is little hope on either side that a new deal will be inked by Friday, the contractual deadline marking the point at which the 2010 season will be played without a salary cap. NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has been busy advising players to prepare for an uncapped year and the likelihood of a work stoppage the following season. A letter Smith sent to players asked them to keep the union informed about their and their agents' ongoing negotiations with NFL teams. The key issue in negotiations continues to be the NFL's economic system, with NFL owners claiming the system is broken and players refusing to take an 18% cut in player revenue share proposed by owners. ***** Who are the most powerful athletes on- and off-the-field? Click here to see the 2010 Bloomberg BusinessWeek Power 100.