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Condensed 2013 Tour season will mean bigger fields

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From January through September, the 2013 PGA Tour schedule is a virtual replica of this year’s lineup, but then next season is about much more than what occurs before Labor Day.

Beginning with the Frys.com Open (Oct. 10-13), the Tour will go to a split-calendar schedule, which means the loss of what were the Fall Series events and Mayakoba Golf Classic, which was played the same week as the WGC-Accenture Match Play this year but will be moved to the fall next season. In practical terms, that’s a loss of some 600 playing opportunities in 2013.

In an attempt to mitigate that loss, the Tour has requested that eight tournaments increase their field sizes in 2013. The Arnold Palmer Invitational, Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and AT&T National will bump up their field sizes from 120 to 132, while the Heritage is going up to 144 players from 132.

“We understood why they are doing it, and Mr. Palmer was happy to oblige,” said Scott Wellington, the API's tournament director. “Tour officials were particularly concerned with getting guys more starts in the spring.”

The Humana Challenge, Tampa Bay Championship, Shell Houston Open and Valero Texas Open also bumped up their field sizes (from 144 to 156), while stops at Torrey Pines (156) and Phoenix (132) were unable to accommodate more players due to daylight constraints.

Overall, officials estimate Q-School and Web.com Tour graduates will have about five fewer starts in 2013 as the Tour transitions to the new schedule. The increases were made in an attempt to bolster playing opportunities early in the season.

“It was more trying to focus on players coming off the Web.com Tour and Q-School and trying to maximize the starts they had,” said Andy Pazder, the Tour’s executive vice president and chief of operations. “But there will also be fewer starts for the exempt players. The average playing start for all our categories is going down.”

Tour officials will also try to lessen the impact of the condensed season by reducing the number of unrestricted sponsor exemptions tournament directors can issue. Normally there are four unrestricted sponsor exemptions, although that total varies from tournament to tournament, but next season those will be reduced with more exemptions going to Q-School and Web.com Tour graduates.