News And Notes From The Tours
2009 PGA TOUR SCHEDULE: PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem held up his index finger during a visit to the press room at the 2006 Ryder Cup, which seemed a bit premature since the Americans had been getting trounced in recent matches.
"Valero Texas Open -- No. 1 in charitable giving this year," Finchem said to clarify.
When someone mentioned that he had rewarded tournament officials for their charity efforts by sticking them in the fall, Finchem jokingly replied, "Why ruin a good thing?" before adding with a more serious tone that the event soon would move to the spring.
The Valero Texas Open starts Thursday in San Antonio, its final fall appearance before it leads off the new Texas Swing next May.
It's a just reward for a tournament that never complained about being held the same week as the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup, or when it was relegated to the not-so-illustrious "Fall Series" when the FedEx Cup came along.
The move gives the tour a three-week Texas Swing after The Players Championship in May.
While the tour has not released its 2009 schedule, individual tournament Web sites indicate the Texas Open will be May 14-17, followed by the HP Byron Nelson Championship (May 21-24) and the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial (May 28-31).
The other Texas event, the Shell Houston Open, will be April 2-5, the week before the Masters.
Because of how the calendar falls, the 2009 season starts a week later, with the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship at Kapalua from Jan. 8-11, followed by the Sony Open.
There is a slight reconfiguration in the West Coast Swing.
The Buick Invitational, which has been held in late January in recent years, will be played Feb. 5-8. That's the week after the Super Bowl, a spot that had belonged to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for much of the decade.
The Florida Swing also involved musical chairs. The Honda Classic again will go first (March 5-8), followed by the CA Championship at Doral, which had anchored the Florida rotation. The Transitions Championship in Tampa will go third, with the Arnold Palmer Invitational in the fourth spot, two weeks before the Masters.
The rest of the FedEx Cup portion of the schedule looks similar to 2008, with the Buick Open the biggest exception. Instead of being held at the end of June, it will move to the first weekend in August, two weeks before the PGA Championship.
Depending on Tiger Woods' schedule when he returns next year, it will be hard to imagine him playing the Buick Open, Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship -- all of which he has won multiple times -- then playing all four playoff events, which again are scheduled to start two weeks after the PGA Championship.
Still to be determined is whether to build a week off into the playoff schedule. Finchem indicated that officials were contemplating both scenarios -- four straight playoff events or a week off during the playoffs -- before finalizing the schedule.
ORDER OF MERIT: Winning the last two majors still might not be enough for Padraig Harrington to win the Order of Merit.
Robert Karlsson won the Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday for his second straight European tour victory, moving him atop the Order of Merit by $193,527 over Harrington.
Karlsson, who has had five other top 3s this year, could wrap it up in two weeks at the Portugal Masters. Otherwise, it could come down to the season-ending Volvo Masters at Valderrama at the end of the month. Harrington is not scheduled to play in Portugal.
But the Swede says it's no contest when it comes to European player of the year.
"He's won two majors and it's hard to top that," Karlsson said. "Only better thing you could do is win three majors. He is probably better on the bigger picture. But winning the Order of Merit, if it would come to that, I can only compete against myself. The goal is not to beat Harrington. The goal is to play my best golf. And then if Harrington is better, then congratulations to him."
Lee Westwood is in third place, about $476,540 behind Karlsson, and still has a chance.
CADDIE IN THE BOOTH: Instead of glaring at cameras, Steve Williams will be speaking in front of them.
The caddie for Tiger Woods will make his debut as a TV analyst during the Kiwi Challenge in his native New Zealand, which will feature Anthony Kim, Adam Scott, Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker. They will play 36 holes, on Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers, with the winner of the stroke-play event getting $1.5 million of the $2.6 million purse.
The tournament will be played Oct. 27-28, and televised Nov. 15-16 on NBC Sports.
"This is my first experience at this," Williams said. "I'm doing this because the Kiwi Challenge will bring great exposure for New Zealand and give New Zealanders the opportunity to see four of the world's best players in one group. Seldom would we have four players of this quality at a tournament."
PLAYOFF BEARD: Mike Weir sported a "playoff beard" at The Barclays this year, right about the time developers from Electronic Arts' "Tiger Woods PGA Tour '09" showed up to capture his image for the game.
The beard was gone a week later, and it didn't last long on the video game.
"He kind of wanted it to be more clean-cut," Travis Sailer, assistant designer on the game, told Canadian Press. "That's what he normally goes with. So we actually worked with him and worked with our modelers in the game and got it so that we wiped away his beard a little bit for him."
MONEY MATTERS: Tiger Woods earned $5,775,000 in six tournaments this year. That's more than Jack Nicklaus made ($5,734,031) in his 594 starts on the PGA Tour.
DIVOTS: HP, which recently acquired EDS, will become the new title sponsor of the Byron Nelson Championship. ... Greg Norman has appointed Frank Nobilo of New Zealand his assistant captain for the Presidents Cup next year. They played on two Presidents Cup teams together. ... Dustin Johnson led the field in driving distance at Turning Stone, becoming the first player to win a PGA Tour event with the longest driving average since Tiger Woods at Firestone in 2007.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Including his FedEx Cup bonus, Vijay Singh made $15,165,163 over the final two months of the season.
FINAL WORD: "I would be the first to say that I've underachieved, for sure. That hasn't been because of the lack of a work ethic or trying or caring or doing anything I can to get better. Whatever happens in my career, I know that I've worked as hard as I could." -- Charles Howell III.