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PGA Tour to have 48 events in 2003

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Wednesday that the tour would have a full slate of at least 48 tournaments next season despite speculation to the contrary.

Speaking in his annual "State of the PGA Tour" address at East Lake Golf Club, the site of this week's Tour Championship, Finchem said negotiations were still on-going to provide title sponsorship for all events.

The total prize money, he said, would increase from $199 million in 2002 to approximately $225 million next season.

Finchem, however, sidestepped the issue of Augusta National Golf Club and its lack of female membership.

The private club is the host of the Masters, one of the year's four majors, and is being pressed by women's rights lobbyist Martha Burk to admit a woman to its membership.

Finchem said that his views on the matter were the same now as they were when he responded by letter in August to Burk's request that the tour withdrew its recognition of the Masters as a major and official PGA tournament.

"We said while we appreciated and respected her position, and we do, that that's just something for all factors considered that we were not prepared to do," Finchem said.

"So we have been very clear on that. I think the statement speaks for itself and I cannot elaborate on it."

When pressed to speculate as to what could happen to the Masters, Finchem replied: "As far as I know, there's going to be a tournament at Augusta, the Masters, and it's going to be on CBS television, and our players are going to go play.

"What else happens, I'm not going to speculate on that."

Earlier this year, a number of tournaments, including the Canon Greater Hartford Open, Disney World Classic and Reno-Tahoe Open, were thought likely not to be played in 2003.

"It's been referred to in the press that Disney has a new sponsor the next four years; that's correct," Finchem said.

"The details just have not been announced.

"We are in some final conversations with two or three other places.

"We may yet wind up with a couple of situations where some different kind of sponsorship is coming forward from the community or the tournament where we play, but there will not be many of those.

"We look at that as being fully sponsored. We may still have a couple of title positions remaining but a very manageable number."

The tour's schedule has yet to be released, but Finchem said there most likely would be 48 tournaments in 2003, down one from this year.

"We will probably only have 48 next year because we probably won't play an event opposite the American Express, because it's later in the calendar and the options available are not good weather options, although we still might," he said.

"We will have a full schedule, fully-sponsored schedule throughout the year and the details of which will be released after our board meeting in a couple of weeks."

Finchem also announced that the Tour will change its name to the Nationwide Tour, to reflect its sponsorship by an insurance company, and the Senior Tour will become known as the Champions Tour.

There is no overall sponsor of the Champions Tour.

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