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PGA Tour is taking a page from NASCAR's book

July 18, 2006|by TIM KOELBLE

The PGA Tour might try to think ahead of time how it is going to acclimate its viewers with the changes being made beginning in January.

Commissioner Tim Finchem and his office cronies must have been taking officials of NASCAR to dinner quite extensively in order to come up with the new concept, equivalent to racing's Nextel Cup.

Being ballyhooed as the "new era in golf," the FedEx Cup series will explode onto the scene in January and run until late August. Then, through mid-September we'll have the PGA Tour playoffs.

The weekly schedule has been shuffled extensively and a points system has been put in place for the new "regular season." The four majors will have their own point values, the World Golf championships will have a different value and all other stops during the regular season will have a value. FedEx Cup points will also be awarded in each tournament.

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At the end of the regular season, the top 144 players get into the "playoffs," where the top 30 players at the end of the first three playoff events will advance to the Tour Championship.

However, get this: It is conceivable that a player who qualified as one of the 144 to get to the playoffs could not be one of the 30 who makes the Tour Championship, yet still wins the FedEx Cup championship. The whole thing is generated on points.

Guess you can call it the "fewest strokes for the mostest points," or something goofy like that.

There'll also be a fat $10 million waiting for the FedEx winner.

What it has turned out to be is a corporate explosion financially that is benefitting the PGA. With the advent of the FedEx Cup comes new corporate involvement from companies such as BMW and Coca-Cola.

There's not enough room in this space to explain all the changes going on in the PGA world. Nor is there enough room to cover another topic: Why is the Mid-Atlantic region, a hotbed of golf, unable to maintain a position on the PGA Tour with a reliable sponsor?

And there's another thought that might be more important for golf fans who rely on television for end-to-end coverage of a tournament: You'd better make plans now to get The Golf Channel to catch Thursday and Friday rounds. Most of the events will be shifted away from ESPN to The Golf Channel, a network not readily available by your local cable provider unless you want to fork out more money. When it comes to Saturday-Sunday television, it will be totally dominated by CBS and NBC.

I don't know about you as a viewer, but I don't want to have to pay more money locally for The Golf Channel, and then hope to get quality coverage like ESPN.

Through it all, after the Tour Championship, we get the Fall Series for all those who weren't good enough to qualify for the playoffs.

It's just another one of those things in professional sports that will have to be tagged with a "wait and see" comment.

To understand more and learn about the FedEx Cup, things are explained pretty well on the PGA Tour Web site www.pgatour.com.




Tim Koelble is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at koelble@herald-mail.com

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