SHANGHAI – The PGA Tour no longer is looking for new tournaments in Asia as it considers revamping the schedule so that a new season would start in the fall after the FedEx Cup is over.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Sunday that if players approve the idea of a fall start to the season, then it would be easy to give the HSBC Champions equal status as the other three World Golf Championships. That would include making prize money official.
That would give the PGA Tour two Asia stops - the Asia Pacific Classic in Malaysia and the HSBC Champions - which Finchem feels is adequate combined with the domestic tournaments.
The earliest a fall start could happen is 2013, and Finchem said much of that depends on a player meeting in January at Torrey Pines and the next policy board meeting in March.
“We have a combination set of changes in front of the players that would relate to restructuring the Nationwide Tour and maybe restarting the season in the fall,” Finchem said. “If we go down that road, it makes it a lot easier. And that’s the road I’d like to go down.”
Tour officials have been studying a concept that would merge top Nationwide Tour players with PGA Tour players who fail to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs. They would play their own series of events to determine who gets Tour cards for the following season, while qualifying school would offer Nationwide Tour cards.
If that happens, a new season could start with what is now the Fall Series, and it would include Malaysia and Shanghai. Both tournaments would offer official money and FedEx Cup points toward the following year.
“There are issues with it,” Finchem said. “The players need to support us. We have some work to do, although I don’t know of anyone who has huge problems with the specifics. But, change is change.”
HSBC is troubled that the PGA Tour does not consider it the same as the three WGC events in America. At the moment, the HSBC Champions only counts as official if a PGA Tour member wins, and even then it doesn’t count toward a money list.
Finchem said HSBC could still get full status even if the Nationwide idea is rejected.
“We have options even if we don’t go down that path with the structure of the tournament and what it means,” Finchem said. “We’ve looked at official money in the past. It’s just cleaner if we get everything done under the FedEx umbrella.
Finchem’s appearance in Shanghai two years ago raised speculation that he was looking to stake out an already crowded territory. Some referred to it as his “Asian invasion.” Finchem was on an 18-day trip through China, South Korea and Japan.
Now, however, he says two tournaments should be enough.
Asked if he were actively looking for a new tournament in Asia, Finchem replied, “No.”
“But we’re entertaining people who want to talk to us about it,” he said. “Right now, we feel like we have a game plan that’s a really good schedule. You never know, so you always want to know what’s available.”
As for the Asia Pacific Classic, Finchem said the field likely would be expanded if it were an official event. Bo Van Pelt won two weeks ago against a 47-man field, with 35 of them on the PGA Tour. He said the field still would be small compared with other PGA Tour events because of the weather.
“We’re getting good support for the guys wanting to play, which is a factor,” he said. “You need demand from the players, and that seems to be there.”