Tour Back in Greensboro But for How Long

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2005 Chrysler Classic of GreensboroGREENSBORO, N.C. -- The PGA Tour is in Greensboro again, continuing a storied history that dates back to Sam Snead's victory in the inaugural tournament in 1938. And Roy Williams' memory of this event goes back nearly as far.
 
'I can remember sitting in Spanish class, wondering why Arnold Palmer tried to hit it out of a creek on the 15th hole to make a double bogey and lose the tournament,' said the University of North Carolina basketball coach, who played in the pro-am on Wednesday. 'That's how far back I go.'
 
Now, the question is whether the tour's reorganized schedule in 2007 has room for the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro. Nothing is finalized, but the tour is moving toward a season that would end in the middle of September with the Tour Championship, preceded by three tournaments that would be part of a points-chase toward a $10 million prize for the winner.
 
The tournament in Greensboro currently is part of the Fall Finish, a group of 11 events beginning Labor Day weekend that completes the brutal 47-week season.
 
'The Fall Finish, it is important to all of us, there's no doubt about it,' Sergio Garcia said. 'There's some really good events in the fall. I try to give it the best shot I can.'
 
Garcia is the top player from the World Golf Ranking here this week, with Adam Scott the only other from the top 10. For Garcia, he has a tough time fitting tournaments in the United States into his busy itinerary, which includes many stops in Europe.
 
This is the first time he's played in Greensboro.
 
'I like to play a bit more in Europe, because I have some nice events around my country that I enjoy playing, that I can get some friends to come and watch me, things like that,' the Spaniard said. 'But I still try to come and play two, three, four events in the fall.'
 
Until 2003, this event was played in spring, and for a time occupied the spot on the schedule just before the Masters. Now, it squarely competes against football, both college and the NFL, and the playoff-style Chase for the championship in NASCAR.
 
This weekend, three of the state's Atlantic Coast Conference schools have home games, and the Champions Tour also has its annual event in Cary, N.C., a suburb of Raleigh about 90 miles east of Greensboro.
 
'The PGA Tour schedule was set for 2002 through 2006,' said Tim Crosby, director of tournament business affairs for the tour. 'They were obviously aware of when we were playing when the Champions Tour decided to schedule their tournament in Cary.'
 
Ideally, the tour would like to keep tournaments such as this one on the schedule, where they possibly would be broadcast by The Golf Channel for a much smaller sponsorship fee than Chrysler already pays. But would a title sponsor support an event that likely would be without Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or other top stars? And one shown on a niche cable network during the middle of football season?
 
Mark Brazil hopes so. He has been the tournament director in Greensboro for four years, and he feels the tournament is stronger than ever. Davis Love III, who withdrew Tuesday because of a sore neck and shoulder, renovated Forest Oaks two years ago, and most of the field raves about the changes.
 
Garcia mentioned the reputation the course has in the locker room as one of the reasons he's here.
 
'This is a great old event that is about to get much better,' Brazil said. 'I think the tour is starting to realize what we have to offer, and that we are very serious and committed to being a serious player on the PGA tour schedule.'
 
While Woods has never played here, the tournament does hold an attraction to the majority of the tour members, who try to earn as much money as possible down the stretch to secure a spot in the top 125 to secure their status for the next season.
 
John Maginnes is quickly running out of time this season. He is 256th on the money list, thanks to 14 missed cuts in 15 starts, and he wonders where someone in his position fits in the new schedule.
 
'From a player's standpoint, particularly the guys who aren't in the top 20 or top 30 in the world, they're nervous because they're worried that money is going to be taken out of their pockets,' Maginnes said. 'We have no idea what's going to happen.'
 
One option for helping Greensboro would be making each exempt player enter every tournament at least once in a five-year span. For obvious reasons, that doesn't sit well with many of the stars of the tour.
 
'It's a very difficult thing to do, because for me, there's obligations I have in Europe, too,' Garcia said. 'It puts a lot of pressure on the player to try to get away from those to be able to play a different tournament here in the U.S.
 
'Probably not the best thing to do for the players.'
 
For now, all Brazil can do is wait for the tour to decide on its plan for the future. He feels he and other tournament officials have done all they can.
 
'I don't know where this thing stands,' Brazil said. 'I would think the PGA Tour is making some progress, but some slow progress. It's going to take some time. I'm sure they're doing the right things.'
 
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