Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tour Plans for Major Schedule Shift; but Finchem Still Negotiating Date for Players Championship

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tour Plans for Major Schedule Shift; but Finchem Still Negotiating Date for Players Championship

Article excerpt

Byline: GARRY SMITS

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem answered some questions Wednesday during a press conference at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

But not all of them.

For example, we only know that The Players Championship will be in a month that begins with "M."

However, whether The Players remains in March or is moved to May in 2007, the Tour's signature event will be part of a season-long points chase that will culminate with a four-event "playoff" and a bonus to the winner (outside of purses) that Finchem says will be more than any other individual sport pays its champion and more than what professional team-sports athletes receive for winning their championships.

The FedEx Cup (FedEx will be the title sponsor from 2007 to 2010) will give players points from the season-opening Mercedes Championship through the PGA Championship, the final major of the year. Following the PGA, the top 144 players on the points list then will be seeded for three full-field events, at venues yet to be determined.

Media speculation has centered on the Western Open in Chicago, Barclays Classic in Westchester, N.Y., and the Deutsche Bank Championship near Boston. However, Finchem said those events could be rotated and threw out the Bellerive Country Club near St. Louis as another possibility.

The top 30 on the points list after those three tournaments will advance to the Tour Championship, which will remain at East Lake. That event will determine the points champion, who will receive a bonus, Finchem said, in excess of the $5.3 million Kurt Busch received for winning the Nextel Cup in NASCAR last year.

"This will create more value for sponsors, more compelling TV and more financial benefits to the players," Finchem said from the site of this week's Tour Championship, which will move to mid-September as the anchor leg of the FedEx Cup. "This will pull the season together to have a strong finish."

Finchem said the precise format has yet to be determined. He did say the points system would be structured so that even the top-seeded player likely would have to compete in all three events to reach the Tour Championship, insuring that stars such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh would play for at least five consecutive weeks, counting the PGA.

That, Finchem believes, would solve the Tour's problem of sports fans deserting golf once football season begins. The Tour Championship, which has been reserved for the top 30 money-winners since 1987, usually has been an after-thought since it frequently runs into early November.

"We're the only major sport that doesn't have a strong finish to the regular season," he said. "We needed something beyond a money list that ties tournaments together."

The initial reaction of players was positive.

"It's a big change. …

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