A Shorter Season Hold On

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MIAMI, Fl. -- Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson spoke their minds on Wednesday here at Doral Resort & Spa. They want a shorter PGA Tour season. Actually, theyd like PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to make it happen in the next television contract (negotiations begin later this year) which slides into place in 2007.
 
Woods says hed like to see the season end on Labor Day, arguing that a PGA Tour season that wraps up alongside the football season is a battle thats not worth losing. And his schedule reflects his feelings. Woods played just two official stroke-play events last year after Labor Day.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods suggests a shorter season will lead to more meetings between the world's top players.
If you had a shorter season, wed (the top-ranked players in the world) be forced to play more against each other, Woods said. Its something Ive really been trying to get into Finchems ear about.'
 
Mickelson feels much like Woods, stating that history shows us the best players have never played more than about 22 events on average in any given season. For the record, Mickelson played 22 events himself in 2004, including four official tournaments after Labor Day.
 
As the argument goes, a current PGA Tour schedule that gives us 48 official events in a span of 44 weeks (dont forget the doubleheader weeks like Accenture Match Play and Chrysler Classic of Tucson) doesnt give golf fans the desired collection of true stars more than about half the time.
 
Lets be real. Woods and Mickelson are very important in all of this. They realize their position as the PGA Tours top two drawing cards, and thus their consistent presence is a big part of the network television puzzle. Network dollars, tournament purse dollars ' it all comes back to them. And theyre trying to protect their interests.
 
Also give them credit for efforts to try and bring up the level of competition among the games elite on a more regular basis.
 
You can bet Finchem ' whos rarely made a bogey in negotiations on behalf of his stars ' will have their thoughts in mind.
 
But Tiger and Phil, in my opinion, are being a bit selfish on this one. Lets step back a bit, fellas ' youre not the only guys on the PGA Tour. So heres a devils advocate viewpoint:
 
1. A shortened schedule makes it look like theyre playing more. Twenty or 22 events out of 32 sounds a lot better than 20 or 22 out of 44.
 
2. No matter how many anyone else plays, Woods and Mickelson neednt play more than 20 or so events to guarantee a run at the money title and about three to four to lock up playing privileges as a top-125 money list man for the next year. (Heck, each could win two of those starts.) They choose their schedule as they see fit anyhow, so what do they care?
 
3. Playing 20 events out of a possible 44 is already baseballs equivalent to a Barry Bonds playing just 75 of 162 games. Or Shaquille ONeal saying he only wants to play home games for the Miami Heat. Yes, the MLB and NBA schedules run shorter in weeks or months but the players are ' for the most part ' in uniform more often during their sports respective seasons. Some would argue that membership in golfs top league should require a player to travel and compete each and every week.
 
4. What happens to Q-School or the Nationwide Tour graduates? A shortened season ultimately means far fewer starts and less opportunity to play. What am I graduating to? Youre telling the young up-and-comers that while they own a PGA Tour card, the chances of actually keeping it, given a tour schedule reduced to, say, 32 events, are diminished.
 
5. Bottom line - a shortened schedule requires dumping tournaments off the schedule, and it will no doubt be the events that they dont regularly play anyhow. So why hurt the events they already dont support?
 
All this said, I just cant see Tim Finchem lopping off perhaps a quarter of the season in such dramatic fashion. During tough economic times, theres been plenty of hospitable goodwill and a good amount of corporate cash tossed the way of the PGA Tour over the years by smaller cities who realize a good thing when they have it. And while business is businesstelling tournaments to go pound the sand in your bunkers would be cruel.
 
Go ahead; try telling folks in Tucson (Chrysler Classic of Tucson) or Milwaukee (U.S. Bank Championship of Milwaukee) or Moline, Ill. (John Deere Classic) or Endicott, N.Y. (B.C. Open) that theyre being squeezed out of the tour schedule. It wont be pretty. Trust me; Ive been to all four of those events. Even without a strong showing of the games superstars each year, youd be hard pressed to find a more supportive foursome of events on the entire schedule.
 
By no means am I saying those events I mentioned would be the first to go under the Woods/Mickelson Plan for 2007 and beyond. But the comments made this week only add to an inferiority complex that some events have to begin with.
 
Didnt Tiger say Hello world in Milwaukee? Didnt Phil Mickelson ' the amateur ' put on the conquistador helmet as champion in Tucson?
 
Dont forget ones roots. And if, dare they say, youre going to take away their tour stop maybe you ought to think about giving those cities the WGC events. Hey Milwaukee ' Heres the Accenture Match Play. Or, Hey Tucson ' Heres the American Express Invitational. After all, doesnt each city in the league at some point get the MLB, NBA or NHL All-Star games? Spread the wealth; dont cash in a tournament citys enthusiastic existence.
 
For now, it seems to me that what Woods and Mickelson are pulling for is an exclusive tour for stars only. A Worlds Best Tour if you willa la what Greg Norman was talking about and harshly criticized for years ago.
 
Hey, Im all for Tiger and Phil having the chance to go head-to-head more often, but at the expense of your very own players and most supportive communities? The PGA Tour is about charityso lets be charitable while reasonable.
 
And who says things are so bad any how? Not me. How about you?
 
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