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Golf News: - Posted 29th October 1997

World Tour gets off the ground with $12 million package

Houston, Texas - The earning potential of the world's top golfers was raised dramatically today with the announcement of three international events beginning in 1999, each with a purse of at least $4 million.

The World Golf Championships will consist of a match-play event in February 1999, a stroke-play invitational in August and stroke play in November with a field taken from the World Golf Rankings.

"Each tournament will have a first prize of at least $720,000", PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. "The series of new events means the top players will now be competing against each other at least once virtually every month from February through November".

"We wanted to come together and come up with some championships which essentially met the market," said Finchem, who was also speaking on behalf of the leaders of the PGA tours in Europe, Japan, Southern Africa and Australasia.

"To do that we wanted to jointly sanction some world championships," Finchem said. "We wanted to use some exciting formats and we wanted to choose venues around the world that were appropriately suited for competition of this level".

In the first year of the World Golf Championships, the match play and the invitational will be held in the United States and the World Stroke Play Championship will be held at Valderrama in Spain, site of this year's Ryder Cup.

A fourth unspecified event will be added in 2000, and from then on about half the events over a period of years will be played in the United States.

The Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf and the NEC World Series of Golf will cease to be held. The Sarazen World Open Championship is also likely to end.

Andersen and NEC have become major sponsors of one of the new events and overall sponsors of the series of events. A third overall sponsor is expected to be named before the end of the year.

The announcement was part of a process to create a series of world events begun in 1994 when Greg Norman endorsed an aborted bid to start a World Tour that would have competed directly with the PGA Tour and events on other tours.

"I think that conceptually, Greg Norman's commitment to the internationalization of the game has played a role in the development of the marketplace" for the new events, Finchem said.

All of the events will begin in 1999, the first year of the PGA Tour's new TV contract. The PGA Tour negotiated the TV deal for the World Golf Championships on behalf of the International Federation as a separate agreement.

The match-play event featuring the top 64 players from the World Golf Rankings will be played 24th - 28th February at the La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California. The players will be seeded based on the World Golf rankings with the No. 1 player facing No. 64 and so forth and will conclude with a 36-hole final on Sunday.

From 26th - 29th August, the most recent members of the Ryder Cup and President Cup teams will meet in a 72-hole stroke-play event at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. The field will have a minimum of 36 players and a maximum of 48.

On 4th - 7th November, Valderrama will hold the World Stroke Play Championship. The field of 60-65 players will come from the top 30 money winners on the PGA Tour, the top 20 from Europe, the top three from the Australasia Tour and the top two from the Southern African and Japan tours. The field will be filled from top-50 players from the World Golf rankings not otherwise eligible.

The match-play and stroke-play championships will be televised by ABC and ESPN and CBS. USA Network will do the invitational.