Originally created 03/02/05

PGA Tour should embrace the idea of shorter season



CARLSBAD, Calif. -- During the Sunday brunch break at the accosting at La Costa, the most exciting alternative was to listen to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. Finchem spoke of expansion and moving and changing. Without saying anything concrete, he opened the possibility that the future of the PGA Tour could look very different than the present."Is there a better way to present our product?" Finchem said. "Is there a better way for fans, for television, for our sponsors? To do that we've got to look at all the options. We may end up not making any changes. We may end up making some changes."Maybe it's frustration after a long, soggy West Coast swing, but two of the PGA Tour's biggest attractions seemed to be sending messages of change to the commissioner."The season is too long," said both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson – the best Americans who rarely agree on anything except Labor Day being a good time to stop working.Since the Commish expressed a willingness to listen to all options, here are a few that could enhance professional golf:CONTRACTION: Forty-eight official events is too many. Ten full months is too long. Trim the fat and make it meatier.Start the official PGA Tour season in mid-January at the Mercedes Championships and end it in mid-September with the Tour Championship – a leaner 32 events to determine money titles and player of the year.A two-week later start could alleviate some of the West Coast weather issues. Making it fit will require some tough sacrifices from every corner of the schedule. Lose the Hope out west. Park the Honda in Florida. Tell Houston to giddy up. Make Memphis blue. Punt the opposite events. Say good-bye to any event younger than 10 that isn't sponsored by a bank.EXTRA CREDIT: To appease sponsors, appraise talent and enrich the middle class, keep the schedule rolling until November with 10 events that count toward official wins, world-ranking points and top 125 tour status. But don't expect many stars other than Vijay Singh to show up. They usually don't anyway.

FIX THE WORLD: The World Golf Championships series was created to thwart Greg Norman's proposed World Tour. Now that Norman is no longer a threat, it's time to reconsider the formats of the four events.As painful as Sunday's David Toms walkover against Chris DiMarco was to watch, there is room for even more match play as long as it comes with a little tweaking.

For the Accenture, make it bi-coastal, alternating as the anchor out West and the kickoff in the East. Also, steal from the old format by dividing the field of 64 into eight sub-brackets – two all American, one Great Britain, one mainland Europe, one African, one Asian, one Australian and one for the rest of North and South America. The bracket winners get re-seeded according to world rank and play 18-hole matches on the weekend to determine first through eighth.

For the lifeless late-season American Express, invite an international field of 100. Play 54 holes to determine the final eight for a similar match-play weekend. As for the NEC at Firestone, expand the multinational field to make it less of a free-money grab for the same elite few. Keep the unofficial World Cup team matches if you want, but push to get that into the Olympics instead.

MOVE PLAYERS: Speaking personally, The Players Championship is perfect where it is on the schedule as a marquee Masters Tournament tune-up. Move it to May, if you must, to balance the schedule. But don't think it will ever be a fifth major.

If Finchem isn't bold enough to give up a little pork on the schedule and make the tough decisions to strengthen his tour in the long run, there is somebody available who can. Outgoing LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw understands quality vs. quantity. Hire him.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.