PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem is expected to offer more details on significant changes to the schedule, including a possible move of the Players Championship from March to May, at his annual state-of-the-tour news conference tomorrow.
Over the last few years, the tour has been contemplating a shorter season and trying to come up with a format to add more fan and television viewer interest in events played after the PGA Championship, the last of the four majors, is played in mid-August. If the Players Championship is moved to May, the PGA Tour would have a significant tournament every month from April to August.
Citing multiple sources, the Associated Press reported yesterday that there will be a points race to determine the participants in the season-ending Tour Championship, which likely will be moved up in the schedule, possibly to September. Players would begin accumulating points starting at the season-opening Mercedes Championships, and points would be more heavily weighted in three significant tournaments following the PGA Championship.
At one point, tour officials spoke with representatives of Washington's Booz Allen Classic about being one of those fall tournaments, but there were significant concerns about weather and course conditions being less than ideal. The AP indicated the three tournaments that will be used for determining the final field in the Tour Championship would be the Barclays Classic in New York, the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston and the Western Open, still seeking a sponsor, in Chicago.
"Good tournaments can compete and perform very nicely," Finchem told the AP, adding that the tour was especially pleased by decent ratings from the Presidents Cup in September at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville. "The Tour Championship doesn't do that bad, but it's too far removed [from the major portion of the season]. It reinforced to us that if you put something special out there, we can carry the audience with us into September. And if it's a strong enough finish, then the season becomes more important."
Going into the Tour Championship this week in Atlanta, Tiger Woods already has clinched the money title and is ensured of being named player of the year after winning two major championships this season. The Tour Championship hasn't decided player of the year honors in seven of the last 10 seasons.
There also is some talk that several tournaments now on the fall schedule may also be played after the Tour Championship, in order to give players more events to get themselves into the top 125 on the money list in order to be exempt for the next season.