From the Rough

Golf without discretion

It’s time to axe the Fall Finish from the PGA Tour schedule

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It’s been a while — 2006, to be exact — since we last saw a PGA Tour season that ended in a month that didn’t start with a “D” and end in “ecember.” With the implementation of the Fall Finish to the PGA Tour schedule, there are now only two weeks out of the year (the last week in December and the first in January) where professional golf isn’t played.

Golf has officially become a year-round sport.

With a group of glorified private contractors walking the lush fairways each week, tournaments have to fight tooth-and-nail to land a Woods or a Mickelson in their field. Without one of the other, a tournament becomes a total success or an utter failure in the span of four days.

Have a tournament in the Fall Finish? Good luck getting a player ranked in the top 30 in the World Golf Rankings, let alone Tiger or Phil to play in your event. Last week’s event at Turning Stone Resort didn’t event draw a single player from the top 30.

This week’s Justin Timberlake event at the TPC at Summerlin is probably the only exception to the Fall Finish’s current MO. The event boasts four of the top 30 in the world, including Anthony Kim, who currently ranks eighth. But I think we all know the event draws a great field due to Timberlake’s persona and his ability to get guys to his event. He’s a younger version of Bing Crosby, and that really works to his advantage.

Timberlake and tournament chairman, Gary Davis, have been bullish about the future of their event — even going so far as to say that they could make it better with a certain player in the field. “The PGA Tour says we have a good event, but they want to see more spectators,” tournament chairman Gary Davis told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I told them, ‘You get me Tiger Woods and I’ll bring out the fans.'”

It’s comments like these that make you believe Timberlake’s event won’t be stuck in the Fall Finish rotation for very long. The economy is going to lighten the tour’s schedule next year, meaning some Fall Finish events could conceivably move up into the regular rotation.

You’ve got both Buick events in Michigan and California, as well as the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee all closing their doors next year. That means there will definitely be a couple of spots open for events like Timberlake’s in Vegas.

Tiger Woods said back in 2005 at the Ford Championship in Doral that the tour should consider changing their schedule so it would end by Labor Day weekend. “I think we should end with Labor Day. How can we compete against football? It’s not going to happen,” Woods said.

He’s probably right. So why in the world is the tour still fighting an uphill battle against the NFL by keeping the Fall Finish around? It just doesn’t make financial sense at this point.

Here’s an idea: What if the tour decided to move the top three events from the Fall series (based on field strength) into the tour’s main rotation next year, and then fold the remaining two events into a couple of tournaments that could use the financial help?

You could essentially boost the purse of those saggings events, as well as give the Fall sponsors more face time with television viewers. I can tell you they’re all getting screwed right now with tournament slots running during football season. Tiger was right, nobody wants to watch golf during football season (sans the diehard fans).

I don’t think shortening the season to September is the right decision; however, I do think ending it in late October or early November is the right call. Sure, you short a couple of sponsors who have their name on an event during the winter months. But if you gave them the opportunity to throw their purse towards an event that could possibly bring Mickelson or Woods to the tournament, what do you think they’d choose?

My money is on the big name event during the middle of the tour season.

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Written by Jonathan Wall

10/16/2009 at 12:00 pm

Posted in PGA Tour, Tiger Woods

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