Shorter PGA Tour season in 2013 will mean bigger fields at many events

Arnold Palmer Invitational
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The Arnold Palmer Invitational is one of several events whose fields are likely to expand next season.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

AKRON, Ohio -- A shorter season on the PGA Tour in 2013 will mean slightly larger fields for as many as nine tournaments.

It's a move designed to help players who earn their cards through Q-School or the Web.com Tour. They are at the bottom of the priority rankings for getting into tournaments, and spots can be rare in the early part of the season with smaller fields due to limited daylight. If they didn't qualify for the FedExCup playoffs, they at least had four Fall Series tournaments to make up ground to get into the top 125 and keep their cards.

BRIDGESTONE INVITATIONAL

The South Course at Firestone was the site of Jack Nicklaus' magnificent comeback from five shots down to win the 1975 PGA Championship by four.

But next year is all about transition. The PGA Tour season ends with the Tour Championship, and after the three-tournament series that effectively replaces Q-School, the new season (2013-14) will start in October. The Fall Series will be the start of the new year.

''You have four fewer tournaments, and that puts a strain on playing opportunities,'' said Andy Pazder, the tour's chief of operations.

The PGA Tour's policy board is asking certain tournaments to expand their fields for only 2013. Tournaments in March and April typically have 144 players because of earlier sunsets. Some of them are being asked to expand those fields to 156 players.

Pazder conceded that it puts the tournaments in a ''precarious position'' to make the cut on Friday. The pace is so slow at some spots that they can't make the cut by Friday even without expanding the fields. Among those expected to be left alone are Riviera, Honolulu and Pebble Beach, which recently reduced its field from 180 players to 156 players to improve pace of the pro-am format.

The limited-field events are not off the hook. The Arnold Palmer Invitational, AT&T National and Colonial are likely to go from 120 players to 132 players. Spared from the list is the Memorial, run by Jack Nicklaus, which recently agreed to ramp up its field from 105 players to 120 players.

That's not the only boost for the Q-School and Web.com graduates.

Tournaments typically have eight sponsor exemptions -- two designated for tour members not eligible (such as John Daly), two for Q-School and Web.com graduates and four unrestricted. The formula for next year will be only two unrestricted exemptions, and four exemptions set aside for Q-School and Web.com grads. The tour is also doing away with the commissioner's exemption for foreign players, which is not used very much, anyway.

In all, it shoud create close to 90 additional spots to help alleviate not having four Fall Series events at the end of the year.