For Elite Golfers, Money Talks

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He said he had negotiated appearance fees for Stuart Appleby, an Australian golfer with multiple wins, Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela, and Lexi Thompson, the L.P.G.A. star, when a South Korean tournament wanted her to play.

The fees can create perverse incentives. They can make players who might otherwise have been in the field not want to play without a fee.

“Once you allow this to happen, except for the major events, everyone has to pay people to show up,” said Craig Garthwaite, professor of strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “You can scale back and say I’m going to shift more of the budget to appearance fees than prize money. But in that setting, big stars still win no matter what.”

As for stopping the practice, Garthwaite said it’s hard to do.

The European Tour does not pay professional golfers to play in its events. But it does not prohibit tournament promoters from doing so. Some events on the Asian and Japan tours also pay players. By contrast, the PGA Tour specifically prohibits paying players to come to a tournament. But sponsors have other ways to entice them.

The John Deere Classic, played in Silvis, Ill., is held the week before the British Open. The tournament has a chartered jet waiting for the player who wins to fly directly to the United Kingdom. Anyone else playing in the tournament who is going to the Open can also get on board, paying a fee that goes to the event’s charitable arm.

Other events, one agent said, routinely pay players to give a talk at the tournament or to play with clients at another course during that week. Airfare and other expenses are covered.

And then there are sponsor obligations. There is a reason Johnson and most everyone else sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada plays the RBC Canadian Open, even if it comes right before the United States Open.

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