Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
The PGA Tour’s two biggest tournaments might be on the move in 2007. Commissioner Tim Finchem said his organization is considering moving the season-ending Tour Championship from early November perhaps to September and The Players Championship from late March to May.
Finchem said March 23 that one of the many schedule changes under consideration was ending the official season earlier in a “more compelling way.”
He cautioned, though, that the Tour is “six or eight months” from deciding how much it will change its schedule. He said the organization is considering “about seven models,” all of which require “lots of analysis” before the Tour begins negotiating a new network television contract for 2007-10 later this year. He said the proposed schedule could be similar to the current one or “significantly different,” or somewhere in between.
It’s unclear what effect moving up the Tour Championship would have on the usual fall tournaments, which traditionally have produced lower television ratings while competing against football. Finchem’s comments came during a month in which Tiger Woods suggested shortening the season from roughly Feb. 1 to early September.
The Tour, too, is “looking very hard” at moving The Players Championship to May. Such a change has been considered for years. The advantages would be to move it further from the Masters, move it away from the NCAA basketball tournament and move it to a time when weather is better. Morever, it would give professional golf a big tournament in five consecutive months: The Masters in April, Players in May, U.S. Open in June, British Open in July and PGA Championship in August.
“We may or may not (move it),” Finchem said. “There are a lot of factors involved in that decision. We have a lot of partners, and everybody has to be comfortable with that decision. If we were to move ahead with the decision, it would be because we concluded we could continue to enhance the stature and impact of The Players.”
During his annual pre-Players Championship news conference, Finchem said the Tour is working on additional guidelines that would clear up any perception of appearance money on Tour. He said the changes, perhaps forthcoming in a couple of months, would not have a “chilling effect” on sponsors putting on pro-ams or players seeking to earn additional income.
Appearance fees have been an issue recently because of an IMG letter to some tournament directors saying it would organize Monday outings similar to the one at the Ford Championship, where about $500,000 was paid to four top players. The letter spoke of pros looking favorably upon staying for a tournament they normally don’t play. Former Tour policy board member Peter Jacobsen said IMG was arrogant for writing the letter and disrespectful to the Tour and players.
“I believe I’m correct to say that IMG has withdrawn the proposal that was printed,” Finchem said. “I don’t think . . . (IMG is) going to be particularly troubled by (new) guidelines . . . I think most people in the game are going to say, yes, this makes sense.”
Mark Steinberg, head of IMG golf in North America, told the Associated Press that his agency would continue working with Tour sponsors seeking “entertainment sponsors. But we have also, because of the controversy, mutually decided to put on hold the execution of these events until further clarification.”
On another topic, Finchem said the 15-month-old rule that disqualifies players from tournaments if they miss their pro-am times has had the “effect it was designed to have.” He said the Tour averaged 54 pro-am no-shows in 2002 and ’03, but had only two last year and one thus far in 2005.