Tour commissioner Tim Finchem unveiled a plan Wednesday at the Tour Championship that drastically alters the schedule beginning in 2007, the first year of a new television contract. Basically, the season will be divided into two parts ' the race for the FedEx Cup from January to September, and then a Quest for the Card portion of perhaps seven tournaments following. Naturally, the run-up from January to mid-September is the prime focus.
Finchem says those numbers arent exact, by the way ' the figure filberts may adjust the field of 144 players either up or down. Those numbers will be worked out over the next year.
But golf isnt over yet ' oh no! After that, the season will then continue for another six or seven weeks to determine the top 125 on the season-long money list. That will determine who has guaranteed cards for the following season ' another 30 and ties from Q-school will also make it, just like past years. Certain other goodies may also be gleaned from these events - world ranking points, and of course, 'What goes with a win goes with a win, whether it's a two-year exemption, access to the Mercedes Championships, whatever, said Finchem.
The real focus here, however, is on the Championship Series, that four-tournament stretch in August and September. And one of the big-big questions is, will this require players to compete for six weeks, even seven weeks, without a break?
Of course, rare indeed is the player who competes with that kind of schedule. But, the PGA Championship is presently played the second week of August. The third week of August a WCG event ' the NEC Invitational ' is scheduled. And then, the tours better players are to begin a four-week Championship Series?
It is difficult enough for a player to compete four weeks in a row. He certainly isnt normally going to be in peak shape that fourth week ' the time of the Tour Championship. But much less SIX weeks? Something has most certainly got to change here.
And how about the six- to seven-week period following the Championship Series? Surely the WCG-American Express will have to move. One report has the three other Championship Series being the Barclays at Westchester, the Western Open in Chicago and the Deutsche Bank near Boston. Would the American Express move into a slot vacated by one of these three? Would the NEC be moved to prevent the six-weeks-in-a-row stretch from occurring?
Much work, however, must be done to the PGA Tour schedule to get it to compute correctly. The Ryder Cup ' and Presidents Cup ' is scheduled in September the week after the Tour Championship would be played in 07. That would be seven-in-seven weeks for some of the U.S. pros ' an impossibility, if the schedule isnt somehow radically reworked.
Tiger Woods, though, sounds like it could be done. 'It's going to be a lot for us, for the guys to play at the end of the year,' said Woods. 'But knowing the fact that you have an off season now for the first time, I understand that. Hopefully we'll hold up so they can play at the end of the year.'
One positive aspect of this new schedule would be that Europeans and Australians would be free to go join their home tours after the Tour Championship in September. Several important events are held in Australia in the winter. Likewise, in October the Volvo Masters is held in Europe, the season-ending tour championship for the Euros.
Finchem says in all likelihood the schedule will continue with 48 events as it presently is configured, with the possibility that one or two tournaments could possibly go by the wayside. This year, the fall schedule includes stops in San Antonio, Greensboro, Hattiesburg, Las Vegas, Orlando and the Tampa-St. Pete area. With a seventh week for the Ryder Cup-Presidents Cup, it poses an interesting point: will all those tournaments remain in the fall, in the Quest for the Card slots? Will any be slated for extinction? Could they be moved? Intriguing questions, indeed.
Are you confused yet? Im the first to admit that I am. But suffice it to say that big changes ' awfully big changes ' are on the way for the tour schedule. And we have only a very rough outline of what it will be.
But ' Im still wondering about those six straight weeks in August and September
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