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Woods: PGA Tour needs a shorter season
by Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) - Fans had a tough choice Wednesday morning, with Tiger Woods on one side of the golf course, Phil Mickelson on the other and Vijay Singh bringing up the rear.

The Ford Championship at Doral has 11 of the top 12 players in the world, creating a buzz that has managed to drown out the noise of jetliners descending over the Blue Monster every five minutes. Ah, if only every week could be like this on the PGA Tour.

"It would be more exciting for the fans, and I'm sure the sponsors and TV and everybody if we did play more often together," Woods said. "The only way you could do that is if we shortened the season."

It's not that simple, although a revamped PGA Tour schedule again is under review.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is studying five models of when to play, where to play, even how much to play in the United States, all of it geared toward negotiations at the end of a year for a new television contract.

"It's time to take a look at a number of parts of the schedule, to see if we can make it more compelling," Finchem said in an interview last week. "Length of schedule is one; where different tournaments are played is another; and where we play tournaments is a third.

"I wouldn't want to mislead anybody into thinking that we are on a mission to significantly alter the schedule," he said. "But we are aggressively looking and challenging ourselves in how we are presenting the product."

Finchem did not offer specifics, and it could be that nothing changes.

But Woods and Masters champion Phil Mickelson have been the strongest proponents of shortening a schedule that begins in January and doesn't end until the first week of November.

"We have an 11-month season, and that's too long," Woods said. "There's no other sport that plays 11 months of the year. I think we should end with Labor Day. How can we compete against football? It's not going to happen."

Mickelson considered the schedules of top players over the past 40 years.

Jack Nicklaus rarely played more than 20 events. Tom Watson never played more than 24 during his prime. Woods has never played more than 21 going into his 10th full season. Mickelson played a career-high 26 tour events in 2002, but his new model is to play hard through the four majors, then effectively shut it down.

Woods, Mickelson, Singh and Ernie Els played in the same tournament only eight times last year, four of those majors.

"Most of the top players throughout history have averaged 18 to 22 events a year, and we seem to have 44-plus events," Mickelson said. "The top players play less than half of the events. If we cut our schedule back to 32 events, now we are playing in two-thirds or three-quarters of the events.

"I think that would be an easier sell for television and our sponsors."

But it might be a tough sell for the rank-and-file.

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