PGA Tour looking for its own World Series
Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2005 at 2:03 a.m.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH - For almost 50 years, the golf season has been defined by four major championships that start in April with the Masters and end in August with the PGA Championship.
What the PGA Tour wants is a World Series, its own version of a Fall Classic.
Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is pulling together the final pieces of a radical shift in the schedule to feature a shorter season and a points race that intensifies after the majors. The plan is for three blockbuster events to qualify for the Tour Championship, with perhaps a $10 million payoff to the winner.
Multiple sources involved in the discussion, all speaking on condition of anonymity because the changes have not been announced, say the three tournaments will be the Barclays Classic in New York, the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston and the Western Open in Chicago.
Still undecided is a title sponsor for the Western Open, with Chrysler in negotiations over the weekend.
Finchem will give his ''State of the Tour'' today at the Tour Championship, although he might only be able to provide an outline of the proposed changes.
''I'm not quite sure what I'm going to say,'' Finchem said in an interview. ''We've got so many things going on. Given where we are, on the brink of going to TV (negotiations), I don't want to mislead anyone. But I want to give folks a broad sense of what we're looking at.''
A PGA Tour source said Finchem might be in position to announce The Players Championship moving from the end of March to the beginning of May, which would give golf a major event every month from April to August.
The changes are designed to put some sizzle into the end of the year, when TV ratings plummet as golf struggles to compete against football.
Finchem believes golf can hold its own in September when football is just getting started, and would fare much better than in early November when the Tour Championship typically is held. He was inspired by higher ratings the last two months at the Presidents Cup, which came down to the final match, and the American Express Championship, where Tiger Woods beat John Daly in a playoff.
''Good tournaments can compete and perform very nicely,'' Finchem said. ''And the Tour Championship doesn't do that bad, but it's too far removed. It reinforced to us that if you put something special out there, we can carry the audience with us into September. And if it's a strong enough finish, then the season becomes more important.''
This isn't the first time the tour has tried to revamp the end of the year.
It created the Vantage Championship in 1986, which offered a $1 million purse - enormous in those days - along with a $500,000 bonus to the winner of a season-long points competition. Also available was a $25,000 bonus for leading each of the nine statistical categories.
The event was tweaked a year later. The Nabisco Championship - the precursor to the Tour Championship - again offered massive prize money and a separate payoff for the points race, only all the money counted as official.
The Tour Championship has lost some of its buzz in recent years. Its prize money, $6.5 million this year, is less than the World Golf Championships ($7.5 million) and not much more than tournaments such as the Wachovia Championship.
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