PGA schedule: More money, FedEx Cup changes on way

(AP) — The PGA Tour released its 2009 schedule on Tuesday for the regular season which features 25 tournaments with at least $6 million purses and a newly configured "Texas swing" of three events in the spring.

Still to be determined are details on a revamped FedEx Cup, and whether to take a week off before the Tour Championship.

Once that it is decided, the tour said it would release the rest of its Fall Series schedule.

By announcing the majority of the schedule, the tour put to rest speculation that some tournaments might be in jeopardy because of the economy. The title sponsors are under contract at least through 2010, and most of them have slight increases in prize money built into their agreements. Among those that kept prize money the same were the FBR Open and Travelers Championship, both at $6 million.

Not counting the four majors, prize money for the regular season is $222.9 million, up from $214.4 million in 2008.

"I'm delighted to say that the demise of the PGA Tour has been overstated considerably," commissioner Tim Finchem said Monday night at the World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

In a statement Tuesday, Finchem said the charitable giving for 2008 was expected to set another record at $123 million.

"The tournaments and their sponsors have worked extremely hard during this difficult economic time to sustain their significant charitable contributions," he said.

Based on the calendar, next season will start one week later — Jan. 8 — at Kapalua for the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship.

The Texas swing was created when the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio moved from the Fall Series to May 14-17. It will be followed by the HP Byron Nelson Championship outside Dallas and the Crown Plaza Invitational at Colonial in neighboring Fort Worth.

The World Golf Championships have raised their purses from $8 million to $8.5 million. Still to be determined is the prize money for The Players Championship, which was $9.5 million this year.

If it goes up to $10 million — it has increased each of the last two years — that would match the prize money for the Dubai World Championship that ends the European tour season and is billed as golf's richest event.

"Whether we go to $10 million has nothing to do with Dubai," tour spokesman Ty Votaw said. "It's whether it's right for the tournament and what we're trying to do with The Players. As Tim always does, he'll factor in all the issues that relate to that."

The PGA Tour policy board discussed a revamped points system for the FedEx Cup at its quarterly meeting Monday, although a decision is not expected until the week of Thanksgiving.

According to two officials at the meeting, the plan is not to reset the points until the FedEx Cup finale at the Tour Championship, although more weight would be given to the top performers. That would mean everyone at East Lake would have a chance to capture the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus, although the top eight or so would have the best chance.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details of the meeting.

As for the other three playoff events, the tour is discussing whether to reduce the size of the field to 125 players at The Barclays, 100 players at the Deutsche Bank Championship and 60 players at the BMW Championship, which returns to Chicago.

Previously, the playoffs began with 144 players, then was reduced to 120 players and 70 players the following two weeks before 30 made it to the Tour Championship.

The tour had a two-week break this year during the playoffs because of the Ryder Cup. The Presidents Cup will be played next year in San Francisco after the FedEx Cup, although tour officials are sensitive to some players having to compete six times in seven weeks without a week off.

"We're listening to the players, who I think liked the week off in 2008," Votaw said. "We think that will help the overall presentation of the FedEx Cup, as well as complement the proposed changes."

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