Justin Timberlake and Ryan Moore in Las Vegas
Since 2007, which seems an eternity ago, events after the Tour Championship became second tier. The purses were smaller. The fields did not have the top players, although the occasional star made an appearance. But, that’s about to change.
After five years in the equivalent of golf Siberia, the fall events have gone from worst to first. They will kick off the season in 2014, even though they will be playing in 2013. They will award FedEx points for the 2014 season.
Their winners will have the same status as winners of other regular PGA Tour events. Whether that changes the prize money offered is yet to be seen. Whether they get invitations to the Masters is unresolved, although the Masters had agreed to invite winners of events where FedEx points were awarded. Winners will likely have played their way into the Players, the richest tournament all year.
The Las Vegas and Disney tournaments have been on the PGA Tour calendar for decades. They are overdue for some good luck. The two new fall events—Frys.com and McGladrey Classic—which started in the worst category, are getting an unprecedented bump to the top of the schedule starting next year.
Las Vegas, which at one time had a huge purse, so big that the winner was typically the money champ, is getting some much needed status back with the new date.
While we do not know which event will actually have the glory of being the season opener, we do know who will be two of next year’s defending champions headed into the 2014 season: Ryan Moore, Las Vegas/Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and Jonas Blixt, Frys.com Open.
“It changes the dynamic completely,” Ryan Moore said about the schedule change. “The fact that this is going to be the first or second tournament of the next season, I'm excited for that just because, well, I tend to play good late into the summer and early fall. So the way they're doing the schedule, I think it's great. It allows someone like myself to just kind of just keep rolling and going and playing.”
Moore anticipates taking a few weeks off in January and February after playing in the fall, including defending his title in Las Vegas where he attended college and played golf for UNLV.
“I think you're going to see this event get stronger and stronger over the next two, three years,” Moore added. “It's made so much headway in the last three, four years. It's great to see where it could go.”
If there’s a down side to the change in the schedule, it may be that players who used to tinker with equipment a lot after the big summer tournaments were over have to find another way to do it.
“That was part of the reason why I played quite a lot of golf towards the end of the year last year, was really to get comfortable with that belly putter,” Ernie Els said at the Frys.com Open. “The only way you can do that is under stress and tournament conditions. You know, I did fairly well last year here, and that definitely gave me a bit of a boost.”
Likely equipment tinkering will be in Silly Season or overseas events. The CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, MAS, falls into that category and conveniently opens up the opportunity for additional PGA Tour events in that part of the world for November of 2013 and subsequent years.
What has been missing from the PGA Tour schedule with the FedEx Cup and then Fall Series events was a real conclusion to the season. Last year, the entire fall series was made more interesting by the contest between Webb Simpson and Luke Donald for the No. 1 spot on the money list.
Donald had it, then Simpson got it from him and then Donald was forced to enter the last tournament of the year that counted for money, the Children’s Miracle Network event at Disney World.
However, 2013 will finish with FedEx Cup champion, Tour Championship winner and money list winner all determined at the Tour Championship. It will be a blockbuster. Once again, the PGA Tour will have a definite beginning and end.
Quote of the week: Jonas Blixt, winner of the Frys.com Open, on hockey in Sweden:
“If you're a guy, you want to play hockey. It's like baseball over here. The tough guys play hockey, you know, the guys with no teeth.”
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.