By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
On Tuesday, PGA TOUR Executive Vice President and Chief of Operations Andy Pazder discussed a number of topics on “Maginnes on Tap” with John Maginnes from SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. Among them: conflicting event releases (and the conditions attached to them) granted to the eight players who participated in the World Golf Final in Turkey last month, the 2013 PGA TOUR schedule and more.
Here are some of the highlights:
On attaching conditions to the releases granted to those who played in Turkey the same week as the Frys.com Open: “We felt it was not unreasonable to ask them to support specifically the Frys.com tournament in a future year,” Pazder said. He wouldn’t go into specifics but added the players all know they have a future obligation to the tournament -- meaning it seems likely Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson, Hunter Mahan, Charl Schwartzel and Matt Kuchar will play in the Frys.com Open at some point. “A lot of factors that go into this,” Pazder said. “Even though it was an unofficial event, we wanted to support the European Tour. We felt we would go against what we would ordinarily do, which is not approve those releases at all. If not for the possibility of Europe benefitting with developing a full-field event in Turkey, we may have had a different view.” Pazder also noted that not all releases have conditions attached to them because it depends what other factors are in play.
On the 2013 tournaments and changes to the structure of the schedule : Pazder cited the six Player Advisory Council meetings -- double the normal amount in a given year -- as just one of the many examples of just how difficult it was to restructure the tournament schedule as we know it.
Three specific areas he discussed was the movement of the Valero Texas Open to the week before the Masters, the FedExCup Playoffs bye week and what could amount to essentially fewer playing opportunities for those who finish outside the top 125 in the FedExCup standings.
Let’s start with the Texas two-step. The reason the Valero Texas Open had to be moved to the week before the Masters was two-fold. First, the Masters always finishes the second Sunday in April. Next year, that will be April 14 -- a week later than this year -- which caused the TOUR to have to move a tournament that’s normally behind it, in front of it. Second, the Valero Texas Open has an annual pro-am the day after its event that generates $8 million for charity. Had the status quo held, that day would have been the day after Easter, which would have had a negative impact on charitable dollars. The positive is that the Shell Houston Open might get some players it normally doesn’t since a lot of players prefer to not play the week before a major. Likewise, the Valero Texas Open now provides a last chance for players trying to qualify for the Masters with a win. “It was probably the most complicated part of the schedule,” Pazder said. “It happens every 5 or 6 years, so it’s not something we haven’t dealt with before.”
On to the FedExCup Playoffs bye week, which switches back to the week after the Duetsche Bank Championship (the second of the four Playoffs events) after following the BMW Championship (the third Playoffs event) this year. This had mostly to do with it being a Presidents Cup year next season. “In 2013, we have a week off after the TOUR Championship before we play the Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village,” said Pazder, noting players didn’t have a week off before this year’s Ryder Cup. “That’s what gave us an opportunity to slide that off week in the Playoffs between the second and third events.” Pazder also said some “excitement” was lost this year between the third leg of the Playoffs and the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, but “we felt that’s what we needed to do to give players a little bit of a breather.”
Lastly, and what Pazder said was “probably the single biggest downside” to what he called a transitional year, is the fact that players outside the top 125 will potentially have fewer starts with what was the Fall Series now being folded into the FedExCup portion of the following season’s schedule beginning next October. To augment the possibility of fewer starts for those players, Pazder said the TOUR is “doing everything possible,” including increasing field sizes at eight tournaments and increasing the number of sponsor exemptions in that eligibility category. “But no question when you take four events off the schedule because they are going to start the following season, it has an effect,” Pazder said. “We knew from Day One that was going to be our biggest issue.”