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Commissioner ponders massive overhaul of schedule

7/19/2005

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Four years PGA Tour
commissioner Tim Finchem arrived at the British Open having just
completed another four-year television deal that approached $1
billion.

He spent this British Open in a series of meetings, and progress
was said to be mixed.

Finchem is contemplating a massive overhaul of the PGA Tour
schedule that would shorten the season and bring more attention to
golf during the latter part of the year when it goes up against
football. The tour might not be ready to present its final proposal
to the networks until the final few months of the year, at the
earliest.

According to four sources involved in the discussions, the model
getting the most attention is a season that ends in September with
the Tour Championship, coupled with a points race similar to
NASCAR. The sources, said qualifying would take place through the
PGA Championship, followed by a series of blockbuster tournaments
to qualify for the Tour Championship.

Finchem was in meetings Monday afternoon and could not be
reached for comment. Nothing has been decided, anyway, and he is
sifting through as many as a half-dozen models.

But what emerged from a week in St. Andrews was major shifting
of big tournaments, and perhaps the PGA Championship moving up one
week in the schedule to early August to allow the tour time for its
grand finale.

The sources, who are involved in discussions and spoke on
condition of anonymity, said The Players Championship was virtually
a lock to move from late March to May, and that it would be the
week after the Wachovia Championship at Quail Hollow. The Tour
Championship, held each year at East Lake in Atlanta, would come
after the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston.

The sources said Finchem might try to move the American Express
Championship -- typically played in September in either the United
States or Europe -- to March to fill the Players' void, meaning it
likely would be held in Florida. Another world event, the Accenture
Match Play Championship, appeared headed from soggy La Costa Resort
outside San Diego to Tucson, Ariz. starting in 2007.

There had been talk about starting the subsequent season in the
fall after the Tour Championship, just like is done on the European
tour. But a management source and the tournament director said the
tour has abandoned that idea.

Instead, the final month or so of the season could be broadcast
by The Golf Channel, a niche cable outlet, which would mean smaller
purses and weaker fields, but still allow lower ranked players a
chance to earn money without affecting the top of the money list.

Still to be determined is whether the PGA Tour can get involved
with official events overseas, particularly in the booming markets
of Asia.

And it could all change when the tour starts to inform the
players of its plans in early September. But weeklong meetings at
St. Andrews began to make it clear that the 2007 schedule won't
look anything like it does now.