Surprise! The 2014 PGA Tour season started last week. It's taking a page from the European Tour and starting early.
Starting a season before the calendar year changes is an idea that the Europeans have used for at least a decade. This year, the 2014 European Tour season begins in December of 2013. In seasons past, it started in early November. If they can handle it, we can. Right?
While Euros are comfortable with this schedule, it's far too early to tell exactly how the PGA Tour version will shake out. Based on the comments from PGA Tour players at the Tour Championship, we may see the start of the next season slide a little bit farther into October.
On paper, 2013 looked like the perfect schedule, but apparently it wasn't, according to Tiger Woods.
"We've played a lot of golf. It's been a lot for a long period of time here. I normally don't play that much," Woods said during the Tour Championship. "We're asking a lot for the guys to play from basically British Open on. Some guys have obligations to play in Canada the following week, and they get into Bridgestone, the PGA, and the Playoffs, and the Americans, Internationals flip years. The Europeans got the Ryder Cup on the back end. So it's a lot."
To steal from an old E.F. Hutton commercial: When Tiger Woods talks, people listen.
It sounds like players need another event to play or not play as they choose between the PGA Championship and the Playoffs. A week to wash socks, remember what time zone they are in and sleep late, that sort of thing.
The end of the PGA Tour season is compressed with many must-play events for the top golfers.
If it's what the players want, it would make sense for at least one of the tournaments (now considered the start of the next PGA Tour season) to migrate back to the end of the previous PGA Tour season. We'll have to wait another year to see if any change is made, because 2014 is already set.
Now, just as the PGA Tour borrowed from the Euros to start the 2014 PGA Tour season early, the Euros have borrowed from the FedEx Cup finals and added a four-event series called the Race to Dubai Finals.
That pushes the start of their 2014 season into December instead of November. It features larger-than-average prize money for Europe—$30 million-plus for the four weeks for those who qualify.
Henrik Stenson, winner of the FedEx Cup, is in a great position to win the Race to Dubai, which is their money title.
"No one's won the FedEx and the Race to Dubai," Stenson said after winning the Tour Championship. "Luke (Donald) and Rory (McIlroy) won both the money titles."
Europe still rates their players on money, not points. Stenson currently leads Graeme McDowell by a half-million Euros. The $7-8.5 million purses for the last four events mean that someone having several high finishes could jump over Stenson and take the Race to Dubai from him.
Stenson is now in the middle of his month off after the end of the PGA Tour season. He intends to focus on the Race to Dubai Finals and the start of the 2014 European season.
"I think I'm playing seven tournaments in eight weeks starting from the 19th of October or the week after that," Stenson explained.
So, not only has he done the year-end push on the PGA Tour, he's also doing one for the European Tour. It starts on October 24 and ends November 17.
By the way, Jimmy Walker won the Frys.com, the first PGA Tour event of 2014. Part-time Champions Tour player Vijay Singh finished second.
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.
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