PGA Tour announce major changes in 2007
Tiger Woods walked wearily across the parking lot in twilight Wednesday, recalling the year he played eight consecutive weeks as he wrapped up his record-setting 2000 season.
``I was wiped out at the end of the year,'' he said.
Woods might want to get used to playing long stretches under a new PGA Tour schedule in 2007 that commissioner Tim Finchem said would include the ``most impactful series of events in the history of our sport.''
It includes a season-long points race called the FedEx Cup. It features three blockbluster events leading to the Tour Championship, which would end in September, with a payoff that Finchem said likely will be the largest of any playoff system in sports.
About the only thing missing was the details.
Finchem delivered a skeletal sketch of the new season, conceding that he has not figured out where all the pieces fit and how the points race will work. The idea was to make golf look like other sports at the end of the year.
``We're really the only sport that doesn't have a stronger finish than our regular season,'' he said.
Top players rarely compete in the same tournaments once the major championships end in August. Four of the top five players in the world -- Woods, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els -- played together in four tournaments before the Masters.
Goosen skipped a World Golf Championship last month, while Mickelson is not at the Tour Championship.
Under the new model, the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone would precede the PGA Championship. One week later would be the start of the Championship Series, in which points accrued since January would be prorated going into three straight tournaments, with the top 30 eligible for the Tour Championship.
``If you want to win the cup series, you're going to have to play those events,'' Woods said. ``It's going to be a lot -- six out of seven events at the end of the year, then probably a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. That's a lot of golf, but after that, you're pretty much done, which is great.''
It is similar to the Chase for the championship that NASCAR began last year, in which the top 10 drivers of the season compete in the final 10 races for the title.
``We go so far into the football season, and so far into the fall, that we haven't been able to get the kind of strength we see in other sports,'' Finchem said. ``We're the only major sport that doesn't have a playoff system.''
The first step is taking the model to TV negotiations, expected to begin later this month.
``We have given a general flavor of the direction we're going with our television partners,'' Finchem said. ``They see the possibilities in terms of strengthening our overall product.''
Some players still expressed concerns.
Chris DiMarco noted that Singh, who has missed the last two cuts, might not be eligible for the Tour Championship. Woods also missed the cut the last time he played, two weeks ago at Disney.
Even if a player were to win all four majors, it's conceivable he would not win the FedEx Cup or even make it to the Tour Championship.
``What's the worst-case scenario? That our Super Bowl doesn't have all the marquee players,'' David Toms said.
Finchem did not say how many players would be eligible to win the FedEx Cup, although he said the three events in the Championship Series would have 144 players.
The Associated Press first reported the new model in July, and tour officials have been tweaking the concept since. They still are unsure how the points system will work, and Finchem said there was much work left.
``I've met with Tim five times, and I've heard five different things,'' Woods said.
Multiple sources involved in the discussion, all speaking on condition of anonymity because the tournaments have not been announced, have said the three events leading to the Tour Championship would be the Barclays Classic in New York, the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston and the Western Open. The Western Open is still dealing with sponsorship issues and a decision on where to play.
Golf World magazine reported last week that the Western Open might be rotated among such markets as Minnesota, Indianapolis, Chicago and St. Louis. Finchem mentioned that Bellerive outside St. Louis was supposed to host the American Express Championship, an event canceled because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The heart of the season will be shorter.
But for those tournaments concerned they might get knocked off the schedule, Finchem said there would be six or seven other events after the Tour Championship in which players could try to earn their tour cards for next year.
That section of the season would be called the ``Quest for the Card,'' although Woods said he would not play any of those tournaments, and other top players also would be taking time off.
Still, Finchem believes a season-long points race, coupled with a Tour Championship in September, would mean more top players in the same tournament.
November 3, 2005
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