Viking Classic set for FedEx Cup upgrade

The Viking Classic, the Mississippi mainstay of the PGA Tour’s Fall Series, is set to move into the FedEx Cup schedule next season, Golf360 has learned.

The tournament is expected most likely to become an opposite-field event during the regular season, filling an opening created by the recent cancellation of the Turning Stone Resort Championship, according to two sources familiar with the Tour’s scheduling efforts.

Though securing a stand-alone date still remains a possibility for the Viking Classic, it is more likely to be played opposite the British Open in July or the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational in August.

Asked to confirm the Viking Classic’s upgrade, tournament director Randy Watkins said Friday: “That is possible. I don’t know it yet. It’s being discussed for sure, and we’ll know in the next week.

“We’d love to be inside the FedEx Cup,” he added. Watkins also confirmed the event lobbied for a stand-alone date, but conceded that is an unlikely scenario and an opposite field date offers the best available upgrade.

Watkins suggested that the change to a FedEx Cup event might play a factor in retaining Viking as the event’s title sponsor. The company extended its deal for 2011 in August.

“(Viking isn’t) unhappy at all playing in the fall,” Watkins said, but added, “Their desires are equal to ours. They want to climb up the ladder and improve. . . The economy is what it is, but it hasn’t affected their interest in the tournament at all.”

The PGA Tour policy board is meeting early next week to finalize the schedule. PGA Tour player Scott McCarron, who served as tournament host of the Reno-Tahoe event, told Golfweek his tournament is competing with the Viking Classic for Turning Stone’s abandoned week in August.

This year, the Reno tournament was played the same week as the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in Lake Tahoe. McCarron also said a date change would allow the tournament to avoid a conflict with Hot August Nights, a popular 1950s-60s Rock ‘n Roll car event.

“I think it would be good for everybody to have our own date there,” McCarron said of Reno’s interest in returning to an August date. “Nothing is official yet, but it’s something we’re looking at.”

A Tour official said the 2011 schedule would be released sometime after Nov. 15.

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