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European Tour set to adjust future schedule

Now that the PGA Tour schedule is set for 2007, the European Tour has its work cut out.

The Players Championship moving to May cuts into a prime portion of the European schedule, including the British Masters. Of greater concern is the FedEx Cup Championship series that begins in August, when top players are expected to compete in four straight tournaments concluding with the Tour Championship.

European Tour Executive Director George O'Grady met with two dozen of his members on the eve of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, mainly listening to their ideas as he formulates a plan.

"We've got to think outside the box," O'Grady said in an interview last week. "I won't stand here and say it's all rosy. We do have challenges, but they are challenges that can be met."

O'Grady was pleased by the attendance; only two players were missing, both with prior commitments. He described it more as a briefing than a lecture, and when asked for the central message, O'Grady replied, "That the European Tour is worth fighting for."

The focus was on top players who are members of both tours, such as Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Darren Clarke, David Howell and Padraig Harrington. Europe requires players to compete in at least 11 tournaments, which isn't asking much considering seven are taken up by the majors and World Golf Championships.

O'Grady said the British Masters, traditionally held in early May, likely will move to September and played at The Belfry. The challenge will be what to do with events held in late August and early September, such as the Omega European Masters in Switzerland.

"We can't move some of them to October because the courses will be under snow," he said.

Els already has suggested moving the Arab swing -- Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai -- to the end of the year, giving Europe a blockbuster finish to its season. O'Grady said it took him a "nanosecond to realize it was a good idea," but it might clash with the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai, and affect some tournaments Els plays in South Africa.

O'Grady is working with PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem -- he knew ahead of time The Players Championship was moving to May -- although he has made the point that Finchem doesn't work for Europe.

"We tell the tour what we need, and either we get it or we don't," he said. "That's business."

March 1, 2006

 




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