As we sit just a little over a week away from the start of the new PGA Tour season, it feels like just last week that Henrik Stenson closed out the 2013 schedule with his win at the TOUR Championship.
Wait a second, it was just last week.
When the Frys.com Open begins next Thursday, it will mark the shortest “offseason” in the Tour’s history, a mere 17 days from the end of one season to the start of the next. Tour commissioner Tim Finchem spearheaded the idea as a way to put a true close to the season, as well as giving the Tour more promotional opportunities for the early season winners.
I think it’s a great idea to promote the tournaments that have previously been known as the “Fall Series” as being on the same level as the previous format, but it isn’t going to be a major change in the end. Winners of the early-season tournaments will now get the full FedEx Cup points and other benefits, including invitations to the Masters if they aren’t otherwise qualified. It’s also a great incentive for players who can now play more events to work their way up the money list to earn or retain PGA Tour status. Young up-and-comers like Jordan Spieth now have even more opportunities to prove themselves.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the stars of the game like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and others, the fall events still aren’t likely to have the drawing power that they need. The argument has been made that players with FedEx Cup Championship aspirations may not be able to afford taking six weeks off to start the season, but Stenson played in only 14 events before the playoffs, Woods in 12. Mickelson is considering actually cutting his schedule down a bit to play more consistently, and Steve Stricker played some of his best golf in what was essentially a part-time year.
As a golf fan, I’m looking forward to more golf tournaments that have meaning, but in the big picture, I don’t think a year-round schedule will do much to draw in the casual fan.