HUMBLE, Texas (AP) – The PGA Tour approved a field of 120 for Tiger Woods’ tournament in July, defusing a debate that divided players for weeks.
When the AT&T National in Washington, D.C., was added to the schedule, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem suggested it would be considered an invitational, like Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial tournament with a field of 105 last year and Arnold Palmer’s event at Bay Hill, which had 118 players in 2006.
Rich Beem said he was “insulted” by the idea of another reduced-field event, and other players joined in, saying the tour should not take away spots in a season already made shorter by the FedEx Cup.
The AT&T National replaces the International, which had a 144-man field but was taken off the schedule when it couldn’t find a sponsor.
Finchem, attending the Houston Open this week, spoke to the 16-member Players Advisory Council during a conference call Wednesday. The group then approved a compromise on the field size.
Finchem said the council determined that making the event an invitational “was overwhelmingly positive for the PGA Tour and its members in the long term.”
The tour will decide the criteria for the 120 players chosen “in the next few weeks,” Finchem said.
Earlier Wednesday, Rocco Mediate blasted players who griped about the structure of the event, which will benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation.
“It’s ridiculous what’s going on,” Mediate said. “There is so much effort being spent on trying to make this tournament what everybody else wants, but it’s his tournament. You going to change Arnold or Jack’s tournaments?
“If you’re not in the tournament, you’re not good enough,” Mediate said. “It’s real simple. Play better. Nothing else I can say about it. It’s nauseating what’s going on.”
Steve Stricker, who played in the reduced-field CA Championship at Doral last week, said Tiger’s tournament offers another incentive for players, who’ve all benefited from Woods’ presence on tour.
“The one good thing about the tour is that there’s always something to work towards,” he said. “Whether it be getting in a World Golf Championship, Tour Championship, there are so many things, goals – unless you’re Tiger and you’re exempt for all of them.
“For everybody else, there are so many things to work for out here.”
Finchem said the tour will look at ways to give more opportunities to players who get shut out of exclusive events. The tour will add a tournament next year in Puerto Rico, with a field of 132, to be played opposite Doral.
He said the tour would also consider other areas of eligibility, including open qualifying spots, unrestricted sponsor exemptions and foreign exemptions.
“It’s not a perfect world, we won’t do that perfectly,” Finchem said. “But we certainly will make progress.”
Finchem wants Tiger’s tournament to gain the prestige now enjoyed by those hosted by Nicklaus and Palmer.
“This is a recognition about what Tiger has meant to the sport, what he means to the game of golf, what he’s done to impact the livelihoods of PGA Tour players,” Finchem said. “The players concluded, and our board concluded, that he should be referenced in this context, very similarly to Jack and Arnold.”