2006: FedEx playoffs could be on the move

Miami

The Western Open may not be the only “playoff” event in the FedEx Cup race to rotate venues year to year. Golfweek has learned the PGA Tour also could rotate courses at the Barclays Classic and Deutsche Bank Championship, the first two legs of the Tour’s season-ending, four-tournament Playoff Series, beginning as early as 2008.

Candidates to play host to the Barclays, an event staged at Westchester Country Club since 1967, include Bethpage Black, Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster (N.J.) and a new course, Liberty National Golf Club, a Tom Kite-Bob Cupp design set to open this summer in Jersey City, N.J.

Westchester’s membership has yet to decide if it wants to be part of the Championship Series moving forward. The venue is under contract to host the event through 2009, but the deal calls for the event to be played in June. Next year’s Barclays, which is part of the inaugural Playoff Series, is scheduled for Aug. 23-26.

The TPC of Boston, in Norton, Mass., has been home to the Deutsche Bank Championship since its inception in 2003. But beyond 2007, the Tour has explored the possibility of rotating the tournament to The Country Club in Brookline, site of past U.S. Opens and the 1999 Ryder Cup.

“At this point, our plans are to play at Westchester and at TPC Boston (in 2007), and we’ve announced nothing to the contrary,” said Bob Combs, the Tour’s senior vice president, public relations and communications. “In a

30- or 60-day time frame, we’re going to have significantly more visibility for what ’07 and beyond is going to look like. As of right now, we’re just not there yet.”

The Tour asked Brad Faxon, a native New Englander, to suggest other courses around Boston, and he recommended Salem Country Club, which held the U.S. Senior Open in 2001.

“I know a lot of players were hoping that the members of The Country Club (in Brookline) would allow us to play there,” said Joe Ogilvie, one of four players on the PGA Tour’s Policy Board. “I don’t think they (club members) had a great experience with the Ryder Cup. But we wouldn’t make it as big a circus as the Ryder Cup.”

It already has been reported that the Western Open, played since 1991 at Cog Hill in the Chicago suburb of Lemont, will move every other year in a rota that includes St. Louis (Bellerive, 2008), Indianapolis (Crooked Stick, 2010) and Minneapolis (Hazeltine, 2012). The Tour Championship, the fourth and final event in the FedEx Cup Playoff Series, is anchored at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta through 2010.

Oak Hill (Rochester, N.Y.) and Merion (Ardmore, Pa.) were two other courses mentioned by players at Doral as sites that could potentially fit into the playoff series.

“There’s been talk that we should move it around just because they’re big tournaments,”

said Davis Love III, also a member of the Policy Board. “You shouldn’t play the same courses every year to suit one player. I don’t know how far they’ve got to hammer that out, or how far they’ve gotten on their venues.”

Some players have questioned why the Playoff Series events leading into the Tour Championship have a fixed rotation in the same Northern markets.

David Toms, a world-class player who hails from Louisiana, wondered aloud last week at the Ford Championship why he’ll have to venture north of the Mason-Dixon each year (to New York, Boston and Chicago) to compete in the Tour’s new $40 million playoff system.

“What if you don’t like Westchester?” Toms asked. “I do, but what if you don’t? What if you miss the cut every time you’ve got to go there, but you’ve got to play the first round of the playoffs there?”

The FedEx Cup’s Playoff Series is expected to offer an overall bonus pool of deferred income estimated at $40 million. The winner of the points series could earn close to $10 million of that pool.

“I mean, if they said we were going to play a par-3 course for $10 million, you would probably want to go play,” Love said. “But these are really, really good golf courses.”
















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