Later date May be answer

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

Another weekend, another PGA tournament in chaos. For the seventh time in 13 events this year, weather has thrown a wrench into a Tour event, this time at the prestigious The Players Championship.

After a day of brilliant sunshine on Thursday, thunderstorms rolled across northern Florida most of yesterday, saturating The Stadium Course and putting a Sunday finish in doubt.

"It has been extraordinary," said tournament director Mark Russell, who has had almost as much TV time as many of the players this season.

"Lousy weather has followed us just about everywhere we go this year. It kind of runs in cycles but I hope we're getting it out of our system."

It began at the Mercedes Championship on the Hawaiian island paradise of Maui in January, extended itself to Southern California and Arizona and now into the final two stops on the Florida swing.

The problem has become so pervasive that some people have suggested PGA Tour schedule changes that would take weather patterns into account. It has been suggested that the California portion of the schedule in January and February be delayed by a month. That would mean coming directly to Florida from Hawaii, then moving to the West Coast later on.

"I think anyone who spends time in Florida knows that we can have some bad weather here in January and February, too," Finchem said. "Even if we wanted to do that, and we don't, we have a lot of partners who would have to agree to let it happen."

One change that Finchem seriously is considering is to move this tournament, regarded by many as the unofficial fifth major, into a May slot to enhance its profile.

Right now, the four majors are played in April (the Masters), June (the U.S. Open), July (the British Open) and August (the PGA Championship). The Players Championship would fit like a glove in a May time slot, filling the gap between the Masters and U.S. Open.

"We're looking very hard at possibly moving it to May," said Finchem, who expects to have a definitive announcement on the subject by the end of this season. "We may or may not make it happen. There are a lot of factors involved."

The date is only one aspect of this tournament that the Tour is considering for change.

"We'll be talking about the infrastructure, the position on the schedule, fan enhancements and stadium features around the golf course. A lot of changes could be made in the next two years."

And that's not all that could change in the next while. The Tour Championship, the season-ending showdown for the PGA's top 30 money-winners, could be on the move as well.

Currently, it is played in November and generally fails to deliver the kind of season-ending bang that the Tour would like. One scenario has the Tour Championship being played in September. In that scenario, the lesser events that would comprise the final two months of the season could be promoted as a second season, or perhaps a jump-start on the following year.

DRAMATIC IMPACT

Such a move could have a dramatic impact on the Canadian Open, which is played the first week after Labour Day.

"There's a consideration that we might want to play the Tour Championship earlier, but I have about seven different models I'm studying that involve how we handle the end of the season. We would like to end the season in a more compelling way."

Finchem also said that he's about to make a recommendation to the PGA board regarding appearance money, specifically dealing with tactics that some tournaments have been employing to circumvent PGA Tour regulations. Finchem not only is dead set against appearance money, but of the perception of appearance money being paid.

"It raises the spectre in the fans' minds that the player is only there because he was paid to be there. If the player doesn't play well, in light of that perception, then there is a secondary perception that he didn't even come to compete."

Finchem has a lot of ideas. Big plans. But he is also mortal, which means he can accomplish nothing without some co-operation from the weather.


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