Are Clinton’s actions bringing politics to the Humana Challenge?

It is no secret that most players on the PGA Tour tend to lean to the more conservative side of politics. Some are staunch right-wing Republicans, some are just more conservative when it comes to concepts like taxes and capital gains and fiscal policy.

It is also no secret that former President Bill Clinton is a Democrat, though he is considered to be a more moderate Democrat than many in his party. But as a Democrat, it’s easy to understand why Clinton would endorse President Obama for re-election and why Clinton might give an endorsement to Democratic challenge Raul Ruiz in his local congressional race against incumbent Republican Mary Bono Mack.

The question is, do Clinton’s political actions in the last few months impact in any way the a-political Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, the desert’s PGA Tour event. Clinton serves as host of the tournament, played one of the three pro-am rounds last January and greeted players as their walked on the first tee for the final round.

At the 2012 Humana, there was very little talk of politics. The message of the tournament was simple: be pro-active with your health, eat better, get more exercise. Not a lot of left-wing or right-wing in that, unless you are talking about cutting back on the number of chicken wings you eat watching football on Sunday.

But in recent months Clinton’s political stances have become a bit more in focus, as you would expect in an election year. And that might impact the Humana.

What if players on the PGA Tour don’t like Clinton’s backing of Obama, even speaking for Obama at the Democratic National Convention? What if they decided to skip the tournament to avoid the conflict, even if the conflict is unspoken between Clinton and the players? What if local golf fans who are supporters of Bono Mack take offense at Clinton making an endorsement in a local race between Ruiz and Bono Mack? What if, as is rumored, some organizations in the desert who support Bono Mack call for a boycott of the Humana Challenge because of Clinton’s involvement?

In a perfect world, the PGA Tour pros would play in the desert because they like the weather, the courses and the cause of health and wellness. In a perfect world, local golf fans would come out to the tournament to see the best players in the world. In a perfect world, Clinton and Humana and tournament organizers would continue with the a-political approach to the health message.

When the PGA Tour announced in the summer of 2011 that Clinton and his foundation would play a part in the Humana tournament, I received many letters and calls from people saying they would not go to a tournament that featured Clinton. They would not buy tickets, they would not watch on television. It was just a handful of letters and e-mails and calls, but we always know for every call we get, there are other people who want to call but don’t. I also remember thinking that I would be getting similar calls if George W. Bush was named as host of the tournament.

The idea that this questions are coming up can’t be a surprise. Bring a high-level politician to the party, and politics will creep in at some point.

Hopefully by January, no matter what happens in the elections, golf fans in the desert will want to support a strong field of pro golfers and celebrities in the Humana field, and politics will be put aside for a nice strawberry smoothie and a free pedometer.