PGA season to start early
Orlando - The PGA Tour will start its season in October beginning in 2013 and tweak qualifying methods for players as a result, PGA commissioner Tim Finchem announced on Tuesday.
The 2013-2014 campaign will open in October of next year and conclude with the 2014 Tour Championship, the final event of the tour's playoff series, after approval of a restructuring plan by the tour's policy board.
Currently, there are several events played over the few weeks after the Tour Championship designed at players trying to crack the season's top 125 on the money list to earn playing rights for the following year.
It was one of those events at Disney World last October where current world No 1 Luke Donald of England won to become the first player to capture the US and European tour money titles in the same season.
Those events now will mark the start of the new season although, coming so soon after the playoff finish, they are unlikely to attract large numbers of top players, who will likely take a break before resuming tour competition.
Under the changes to the PGA qualifying system, 50 tour membership cards will now be awarded through the developmental Nationwide Tour, whose final three events will combine PGA and Nationwide players in a quest to claim the prized berths in the upcoming PGA season.
As a result, the annual qualifying tournament staged in December will be played for spots on the Nationwide Tour rather than the PGA Tour as it is currently.
"We are excited to announce these significant changes as we strongly believe that they will strengthen both (US) tours," Finchem said.
"In regard to the change to the start of the PGA Tour season, the fall tournaments certainly will benefit by becoming part of the season."
Finchem said some details are still to be finalised, such as the points system to decide the final 50 PGA berths.
Fields for the final three Nationwide events, to be played at the same time as the PGA playoffs, will include the top 75 players on the Nationwide Tour money list, the 126th through 200th rated players on the PGA playoff points list and non-members who meet certain eligibility requirements.
The PGA's annual Tournament of Champions event in Hawaii would likely remain the first event of the new year and feature the previous calendar's year's winners even though it would no longer be the season-opening event.
"I would anticipate we start the schedule early October and we will run well into November," Finchem said. "We will probably be dark from just before or at (US) Thanksgiving through the rest of the year, probably a six-week break, then we will be back in Hawaii.
Finchem also said the Asia Pacific Classic in Malaysia in October would be restructured and that the November World Golf Championships event in China might not be changed or have only minor tweaks to bring it more in line with other WGC events.