Why Starting PGA Tour in the Fall Is a Great Idea, If Not for Tiger & Phil

Kathy BissellCorrespondent IJune 29, 2012

Webb Simpson reads putt at Children's Mracle Network
Webb Simpson reads putt at Children's Mracle NetworkSam Greenwood/Getty Images

Upgrading regular PGA Tour events is a good thing.  Upgrading ones that have been struggling with fall dates and no FedEx points is more than a good thing. It’s a necessary thing if the PGA Tour is to remain the top golf tour in the world.  Starting the PGA Tour in the fall is a great idea to boost the Fall Series.

The regular PGA Tour events have taken a lot of hits in the last decade and a half.  The Fall Series has taken more than its share.

The WGC events have made regular garden variety PGA Tour tournaments less important in the eyes of the top players.  Regular events are now after the majors and the WGCs.   In other words, when the WGCs were invented, tournaments like Arnold Palmer’s at Bay Hill and Jack Nicklaus’ at The Memorial fell from being the 6th or 7th most important events on a player’s annual calendar to 9th or 10th.  

Since no one has to play more than 15 to maintain a regular tour card, no top player has to participate in any more than five or six of the remaining 33 events each season.  Granted, while most of golfers play between 18 and 25 events, they are not required to do that.

So what’s a tournament in the Fall Series to do when it has a post Tour Championship date, no FedExCup points and a smaller purse than the rest of the events on the PGA Tour?  It struggles. 

With the advent of 24/7 football, the problem of just getting fall tournaments ON television got worse and then became impossible until The Golf Channel.  And for many markets, The Golf Channel is a cable upcharge, unlike ESPN.     

In terms of the Fall Series, the PGA Tour can’t count on a repeat of the 2011 season when the money list was on the line in the final weeks, and world No. 1 Luke Donald made a last minute commitment to play in the final event to secure a place in golf history by winning money lists on two tours. 

Usually, the leading money winner hangs it up at the Tour Championship or, in years before, the FedExCup, between the PGA Championship and the Tour Championship.  Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods even took to skipping the Tour Championship until it was moved to the end of the FedExCup.  They had made enough money.  The fall rust was accumulating.  They stayed home.

Luke Donald consults with caddie at Children's Miracle Network
Luke Donald consults with caddie at Children's Miracle NetworkSam Greenwood/Getty Images

With the PGA Tour season now starting in the fall, the UnTigers and the UnPhils—like Kevin Na, Bruce Molder and Ben Crane who won fall events in 2011—will have a chance to get a leg up on the superstars by accumulating FedEx points and money in October instead of waiting until January.  

Those in between 50 and 125 on the money list plus some Web.com players can get a head start on securing cards without the superstars taking money out of their pockets.  

The fall will mean something other than guys on the money trying to get into the top 125 for next season.  

There’s always the chance that some of the stars will show up and play in one or two of them.  Tiger Woods played last year at Frys.com, and Donald battled Webb Simpson at Children’s Miracle Network.

Even with the fall start, there’s still vacation time, and there’s still appearance money time which may have had something to do with why Tiger and Phil wanted to end the regular season sooner.   There’s still plenty of time for silly season money. 

The foreign players can request exemptions to play home tour events, even though they will have to play others when they return to the US. In November and December, they can still go to Europe, South Africa, Asia or Australia and play in some home events, take a few weeks off and come back to a west coast stop as schedule permits or start at Honda or Doral depending on their rankings. 

People forget that Greg Norman, who was the number one player in the world for more than 300 weeks, never played a PGA Tour event in the US other than the Tour Championship and Tournament of Champions between August and March.  He started each year at Doral.   

Some ask why have fall events at all? 

Ben Crane, one of The Golf Boys, winner at The McGladrey Classic
Ben Crane, one of The Golf Boys, winner at The McGladrey ClassicSam Greenwood/Getty Images

Well, golf will be played.  If the PGA Tour does not fill those dates, the silly season will expand or the European, Asian or South African Tours or Middle Eastern interests will create events to fill those weeks.   The PGA Tour will lose control of the slots and will lose the ability to attract the top players in the game.

Once you give up the date, then you have to compete with another tournament in another part of the world to get players and sponsors back.  If there aren’t any fall events, the charities in those communities will suffer a significant loss in funding.  No one ever remembers those consequences.  

So, in reality, starting the PGA Tour in October gives the Fall Series a new emphasis it has never had.  It keeps the PGA Tour as the place to be in the fall until November. Providing FedExCup points for the tournaments in the Fall Series makes them more attractive to the players who are thinking about FedEx points. Providing FedEx points makes them more attractive to sponsors.    

And those are the main reasons starting the PGA Tour in the fall is a great idea.