By Rex Hoggard
With a veil of secrecy normally reserved for matters of national security, the PGA Tour pieced together a 2007 tournament lineup that featured no shortage of sweeping changes and a host of schedule winners and losers.
Among the most prominent changes to the 2007 schedule is a seasonlong FedEx Cup points race that culminates with a four-event Championship Series ending in September (Golfweek, Oct. 15, 2005). Which tournaments are played before and which are played after that lucrative finale, however, was the biggest news coming out of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., last week.
The Booz Allen Classic and Buick Championship, two of the Tour’s longest-running events, with a combined 92 years on the circuit, fell victim to a numbers game that guaranteed second-tier status to a handful of events. The Washington and Hartford, Conn., events – tournaments played at Tour-owned and operated TPC facilities – will be part of the “Quest for the Card” fall series, which will be played after the Tour Championship and aired exclusively on The Golf Channel.
Also candidates to join the Buick and Booz Allen in the fall will be the Valero Texas Open, Funai Classic, Southern Farm Bureau Classic and the Tour’s Las Vegas stop.
“We were definitely surprised, to be quite honest,” said Hartford tournament director Nathan Grube, who added that his organization had secured a title sponsor to replace Buick on the premise the event would be played in late June. “You can either be upset about it or make the most of it.”
At least those events are still on the schedule. The B.C. Open was dropped from the Tour schedule and likely will become a Champions Tour event. Officials at the Reno-Tahoe Open are negotiating with the Tour to play their tournament opposite the World Golf Championships event in Ohio.
Two events that appeared to be headed for the fall were given a last-minute reprieve. The Tampa, Fla., stop, which traditionally has been played in October, was moved to spring. Tampa will be played the second week of March and aired on NBC, followed by Bay Hill and Doral, which will become a WGC event and take the place of The Players Championship, which moved to early May.
The Greensboro, N.C., event may have improved its position the most. Seemingly destined for fall status, tournament officials transferred control of the event to a board of directors made up of local corporate leaders and enlisted the services of IMG super-agent Mark Steinberg to help lobby the Tour on its behalf. Greensboro was rewarded with a mid-August date and a coveted spot just before the start of the Championship Series.
“We fought hard to stay in the game,” Greensboro tournament director Mark Brazil said.