PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem lived up to his word Monday by delivering a 48-tournament schedule next year that includes eight new title sponsors and $225 million in prize money, with $5 million purses at 20 events.
While most of the 2003 schedule features only minor juggling in the fall after the major championships, one significant change is the Tour Championship. For the first time since 1998, it will end the season as the only PGA Tour event that week.
"There's a lot of interest in not having opposite events, especially the last week of the year," Davis Love III said.
Love, Tiger Woods and others complained last year that the PGA Tour was diluting its product by staging the Southern Farm Bureau Classic opposite the Tour Championship, which only the top 30 on the money list can play.
Next year, Southern Farm will be played in early October opposite the American Express Championship, one of the World Golf Championship events.
The tour lost one opposite-field event when Callaway Gardens in Georgia failed to replace Buick as a title sponsor.
"Coupled with American Express being played later, we are one opposite event short," said Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour. "The decision was made to move away from the Tour Championship."
The season opens with the winners-only Mercedes Championships at Kapalua from Jan. 9-12, and ends Nov. 6-9 with the Tour Championship at Champions Golf Club in Houston.
- The Chrysler Championship in Tampa Bay will be played the week before the Tour Championship, which will help its field as the last chance for players to retain their cards or try to get into the Tour Championship.
- The John Deere Classic, played a week after the British Open, moves to the second full week in September.
- The International, created to attract foreign players, returns to its preferred spot on the schedule, the week before the PGA Championship.
The schedule normally is released in the summer, but Finchem and his staff had to scramble to renew title sponsors during a struggling economy. He promised in March that the tour would have a full schedule.
While it lost 11 title sponsors, the tour found eight others.
Tournaments in Hartford, Conn., and Hilton Head, S.C., are using local and regional funding to get by in 2003.
The Las Vegas Invitational and Phoenix Open also are trying to find title sponsors for the next four-year television contract.
"In every case, we have active title sponsor conversations going on," Hughes said.
"Hopefully, they will be announced prior to the '03 playing of that tournament. In some cases, we just couldn't get it done in time."
Total prize money will increase from $199 million this year.
The opposite-field events - Chrysler Classic of Tucson, Reno-Tahoe Open, Southern Farm Bureau and B.C. Open - will have $3 million pursues, while the John Deere Classic and Valero Texas Open will be the only other tournaments with purses under $4 million.