Appearance money is not allowed on the PGA Tour, but there were murmurs when the field at the 84 Lumber Classic in Pennsylvania originally included Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods, a rare 1-2 punch in a fall tournament.
Both players have financial ties to 84 Lumber founder Joe Hardy.
Woods agreed in 1997 to play three charity events for a reported $1.7 million on the Mystic Rock course. At the time, Hardy was trying to lure a PGA Tour event to his Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, but only one of the 18-hole exhibitions was played. Five years later, Nemacolin had a tour stop.
Woods decided to play in this year's 84 Lumber Classic then wound up pulling out, saying he was too tired from the Ryder Cup.
Singh played in the 84 Lumber Classic last year, then returned in June to play a nine-hole exhibition with Rocco Mediate on the revamped course. Singh and Hardy hit it off, leading the Fijian to sign an endorsement deal with 84 Lumber on the eve of the tournament.
The deals might smack of backdoor appearance money, but the PGA Tour calls them above board.
"We have several players with a personal services contract with companies that are title sponsors," said Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour. "We do not let them enter into contracts that include language tied to tournament appearances or commitments. We're comfortable [Singh's] contract does not have that language."
What looks like appearance money is simply good business.
Woods renewed his five-year deal with Buick earlier this year. He has played in at least two of the four Buick-sponsored tour events since 1999, although Woods has said tournament appearances are not in his contract.
Ditto for Phil Mickelson, who signed with Ford about the time the automaker signed up as title sponsor for Doral. Mickelson played Doral in March for the first time in four years.
John Daly also has an endorsement deal with 84 Lumber. Along with playing the tournament, he has become one of the biggest promoters of the event.
"It makes good business sense [for players] to be there," Hughes said. "But we don't allow contractual requirements that tie into competing."
Singh Secures Top Honor
While it was a mere formality, Vijay Singh made it official. His victory Sunday at the 84 Lumber Classic clinched his first PGA of America player of the year award.
Singh's eighth victory, including a major, gives him 140 points in the standings. That is enough to mathematically eliminate Phil Mickelson (second in the standings), even if Lefty were to win the final five tournaments of the year.
The points-based system awards 30 points for a major, 20 points for The Players Championship and 10 points for all other tour events. The 41-year-old Fijian also gets 20 points for having the lowest scoring average and 20 points for leading the PGA Tour money list.
Tiger Woods won the PGA of America award the last five years, and six out of the last seven. Singh becomes the first international player to win the award since Greg Norman in 1995.
The PGA Tour player of the year award is a vote of the players which takes place after the Tour Championship, although that figures to be a tap-in for Singh.
The only major award still up for grabs is the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average. Singh leads that category at 68.92, with Mickelson at 68.94. Woods and Ernie Els (69.06) are still in the running. . . .
Five winners on the PGA Tour this year -- Heath Slocum, Jonathan Byrd, Vaughn Taylor, Craig Parry and Bart Bryant -- are outside the top 50 on the money list. . . . Jack Nicklaus designed seven courses used on the PGA Tour this year, more than any other architect.