"The competition is so good that it's tough to have a guy dominate. And, when he does, it's a shame it has to be Tom Watson." -- Dusty Murdock, Mark McCormack's golf division
"It's not the man's fault; it's not the game's fault. It's a fact, not a problem." -- Deane Beman, PGA commissioner
Vanilla personalities such as Tom Watson's do not sell golf to nongolfers.
"Our prime objective," Beman says, "is to broaden our base, to attract as a spectator someone who does not play the game. I don't call it a problem. I call it a challenge.
"That's what other sports have been able to do. We want to be able to do what tennis has done.There are literally millions of tennis fans now who don't play the game. That's our challenge."
And no one ever accused Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase of having vanilla personalities.
Problems. Does the PGA Tour have them?
Tom Weiskopf, who has won $1.7 million in his career but has not won a tournament since 1978, thinks so. He says it starts with the commissioner, whom he does not particularly like.
Weiskopf is a minority of one, according to Beman, many tour players and tournament sponsors.
Still, there is concern about sagging television ratings, because the $9 million in rights fees paid by the networks is the lifetime of the tour.
Sponsors like the PGA telecasts because they reach a selective high-income audience. But the general sporting public tunes out because the telecasts have little pizazz.
"It's a very difficult sport to televise," Joe Inman, the 1976 Kemper Open champion, says. "Nobody gets hit. You don't have galleries out there screaming and shouting. It's not in the mainstream of what Americans like to watch.
"They like to watch action."
Some changes have been subtle. For instance, NBC now tapes almost all putts, says Benman ("a subtle change") and therefore it now takes 22 seconds to show a threesome putting out, instead of three minutes as putts are lined up.
Some changes have not been so subtle. When portable microphones were first hung on players, controversy flared. A mike picked up a conversation between Watson and Lee Trevino and it cost Watson a two-stroke penalty for giving Trevino a playing tip. In another faux pas, a threesome standing on a tee spoke about slow play of a chap in the threesome ahead.
"Miking has positive aspects, but at the present time we don't have a handle on how it should be done," Beman says. "There are technical problems and we have to educate the players to the use of it."
Inman, who generally is credited with reflecting the mood of the tour players, says:
"The question is how to mike the players with the freedom to let off steam without the world hearing you while being able to listen to a thought pattern. Golfers do say things that they don't want broadcast to millions of homes. With technology available, we can figure it out sometime."
The television ratings were down last year and appear to be slightly off this season. Sources say only NBC will make money off PGA Tour events this year, partly because production costs are extremely expensive. One source put them at $500,000 weekly.
The PGA's contract with the three television networks expires after 1981.
Beman does not want to talk about what the new rights fee will be and industry sources say that until negotiations get serious there will be no way to determine how big a problem the television ratings will be.
Dusty Murdock worked for the PGA Tour before joining Mark McCormack's International Management Group, whose golf division includes Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and many top money winners. He says TV ratings are insignificant.
"When Nielson calls," Murdock said, "he doesn't call the men's grill at Lakewood Country Club for the 50 people watching there. And the demographics are so impressive. Would you rather have five guys watching the NBA with total income of $100,000 or three guys watching the Masters with total income of $200,000?"
Beman rattles off some impressive statistics in evaluating the state of the tour:
A total of $4 million donated to charities last year, an increase of 25 percent.
An average increase of 10 percent per year in live attendance over the last five years.
An increase of 20 percent in advance ticket sales, with marketing efforts now year-round instead of five to six weeks.
Continual sellouts of pro-am events, where amateurs usually pay $1,000-$1,500 each week to play with tour players.
"In interest at the gate, where sports live and die, we've had unparalleled growth," Beman says.
But television is something else.
And Beman blames what he calls "the modern media -- TV, radio and newspapers" -- for allowing "the creation and supported creation of nonsporting events billed as sports events that are pure entertainment.
"And a straight sports contest can't compete as mere entertainment because they have constraints they try to maintain for the long haul."
Yet, sponsors aren't worried.
Says Steve Lesnig, president of Kemper's Sports Management Group:
"The tour is very healthy. A lot of fine players have been emerging in the last few years. On any given Sunday anybody can win on the tour. And I don't subscribe to the theory that is bad for the game. In the long run, that's healthy. There are a lot of stars emerging but only a couple can be superstars.
"Some people have the impression everybody follows Tom Watson. That's not true. And I remember the day when everybody followed Palmer or Jack Nicklaus. A Joe Namath is great for awhile, but you need players to sustain you."
Adds Inman: "We have a good product. We just have to figure out a better way to market it."