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Masters' new criteria will affect Fall Series

(AP) — The Viking Classic in Annandale, Miss., already was feeling minimized by getting a spot on the PGA Tour calendar after the FedEx Cup competition was over. Then came the announcement from Augusta National that PGA Tour winners again would automatically qualify for the Masters — but only those events that offered full FedEx Cup points.

The Viking Classic is part of the Fall Series, meaning it offers no FedEx Cup points at all.

And the winner won't get that ticket down Magnolia Lane.

"It goes back to what we were years ago when we first started out," said Robert Morgan, the tournament's executive director. "We were official money, but we were not an official win, which was screwy. It's going to be the same in that respect. I would think not having the Masters invitation is going to be a negative."

The announcement from Augusta National was a double-edged sword for the Fall Series.

Winners of those seven events don't get an invitation to the Masters. However, the Masters will take the top 30 on the money list, meaning more players might compete in the fall if it means a chance for them to move into the top 30 on the money list.

The top 30 from the FedEx Cup points will be frozen after the Tour Championship, and all those players will be eligible for the Masters.

"I assume the tour doesn't have anything to do with what the Masters does," Morgan said. "But we were told more than one time that everything would be the same. This was a surprise and a disappointment."

The Disney Golf Classic might be in the best spot among fall events — the final week of official competition, meaning players will be competing for the top 125 on the money list to earn their cards, and top 30 to get into the Masters, if they aren't already eligible.

Tournament director Kevin Weickel said it's a chance for fall events to prove themselves.

"The Masters always does what's best for the Masters," Weickel said. "It's great for the players that a win gets you back into that circle, and I'd love for the fall events to be included. That may come down in the future. The fall is still new to everybody. They're smart folks up there in Augusta. I'm sure they'll figure it out."

Even so, fall tournaments must have been wondering about Nick Watney's victory in New Orleans last week. That was a full FedEx Cup event, but the field was so weak that more world ranking points were awarded to the winner of the BMW Asian Open. Watney earned 28 points, only four more points than the winner of Mississippi tournament last year.

"We've got to play it first," Weickel said of the Fall Series. "Once we see what the fields are like, that's when we'll all be able to make a fair evaluation."

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SUMO TIGER: Some have described the sound of the Nike Sumo driver as an empty soda can being struck in a racquetball court. That noise was coming from the first tee at Oakmont on Monday, and it was in the hands of Tiger Woods.

Whether he uses it in competition remains to be seen.

Woods used the Sumo driver exclusively during two days of practice at Oakmont.

"The question is whether I use it at the Wachovia (Championship)," Woods said, referring to next week's tournament at Quail Hollow. "I already know what my other driver does. It did all right at Augusta National."

Woods has tested the square-shaped driver in practice, but he has not used it in competition. He had said during a Nike news conference late last year that he hits it farther with the new driver, but he had not figured out the proper launch conditions.

He missed only three fairways with his driver during his final practice round Monday.

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SWING SEQUENCE: Tiger Woods offered an interesting sequence of club selection from the 15th hole of the Masters, even though he never took the 3-iron out of his hand.

He didn't have much of a choice, considering his 4-iron was in two pieces from smacking the tree on his swing at No. 11.

"This is how it went," he said. "When the guys were on the green, it was a 4-iron. When the guys were ready to leave the green, it became a 5-iron. And when I stepped over the ball, it was a 3-iron. The wind was dancing all over the place. It went from no wind, then down and left-to-right, and then it was in and off the right. I always had a 3-iron, but it was like, '3-iron is too much, 3-iron is too much,' and then 3-iron became perfect. And then I hit a terrible shot."

Woods played a big cut that came up short and into the water, and he scrambled for par.

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KEEPING SCORE: Electronic leaderboards on the PGA Tour have been around almost 20 years, and Charles Howell III once described the sound of more than 5,000 yellow cubes turning over as machine gun fire.

Finally, they're about to be replaced.

The tour last week announced a three-year marketing deal with Mitsubishi Electric in which the company will supply 22 Diamond Vision LED scoreboards that will make their debut at The Players Championship next month. After that, officials say the boards will be divided into traveling sets so 11 boards are at each PGA Tour event.

The boards will be phased in during the summer, and all 11 should be in place starting with the first FedEx Cup playoff event at The Barclays the last week in August.

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DIVOTS: The Wachovia Championship next week again is offering its "Mulligan" ticket program. Fans who have to leave the tournament early can donate their daily tickets to the tournament, which will be sold for $10. All proceeds from the program go to charity. The tournament already is sold out. ... The Las Vegas tournament will be run by the Shriners Hospital for Children, which will get the charitable proceeds. The tournament, now called the Frys.Com Open, had been run by the Founders Club since it began in 1983. ... Nick Faldo will make his Champions Tour debut in the Senior British Open at Muirfield, the 20-year anniversary of his first major championship at Muirfield. ... Charlotte Country Club will host the 2010 U.S. Women's Amateur, while the 2009 U.S. Senior Amateur is going to The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: D.J. Trahan (Southern Farm Bureau) and Eric Axley (Texas Open) are both outside the top 200 in the world ranking despite winning PGA Tour events in the last seven months.

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FINAL WORD: "It's a nice, drivable par 4." — Tiger Woods, on the 288-yard eighth hole at Oakmont, which plays as a par 3.

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