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Delicate balance between player rights, obligations

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A windfall for some has led to some handwringing in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., as the game’s top stars chase guaranteed riches in Turkey while the PGA Tour forges closer to a split-calendar schedule in California.

At issue is the delicate balance between player rights and sponsor obligations, as eight of the circuit’s top players – including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Webb Simpson – play the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final, a $5.2 million unsanctioned event that began on Tuesday, instead of the Frys.com Open, the second of four Fall Series events.

According to Tour officials all eight members were granted conflicting-event releases to play the Turkish Airlines stop. Players are allowed three releases per year – Woods, for example, has used two this season – and the fact that the Turkish event is not sanctioned by any world tour would preclude players like McIlroy and Westwood, who also play the European Tour, from claiming a “home circuit” exemption.

According to one report on GolfDigest.com, however, players were granted the release based on a quid pro quo to play the Frys.com Open, which is set to kick-off the 2013-14 schedule next fall, at least once over the next three years.

Per Tour regulations, the commissioner can grant certain “conditional releases” based upon that player’s participation in the tournament the following year. But according to one source familiar with the situation the Tour may have difficulty brokering such a deal.

A precedent of sorts was set last year when a handful of players participated in the Shanghai Masters, also a non-sanctioned event, the same week as the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic. Because the Shanghai Masters, like the Turkish Airlines event, is not broadcast in the United States those players did not have to request a competing-event release, although the CIMB event was a sanctioned Tour event but did not award official money last season.