Kroichick: PGA Tour needs meaningful offseason

Saturday , February 04, 2012 - 4:32 PM

Ron Kroichick

SAN FRANCISCO -- Just imagine all the anticipation, all the steady buildup, all the time for Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and other top players to recharge their batteries in the offseason.

One PGA Tour season ends Sunday. The next one begins Thursday, four days later.

Really?

The proposal to reshape the tour's fall lineup -- which could turn the Frys.com Open near San Jose, Calif., into the season-opening tournament in October 2013 -- has generated much debate in golf circles the past few days. Most of the debate bemoaned the likely elimination of Qualifying School as a direct path to PGA Tour membership.

Spare us the weepy nostalgia. Sure, it's a nice story when an unknown player or recent college star abruptly climbs onto the tour. But most fans pay little attention to Q School and barely will notice its reincarnation as a feeder to only the Nationwide Tour.

The more treacherous element of the PGA Tour's plan is the elimination of a real offseason.

All pro-sports leagues need a clear delineation between one season and the next -- a chance to contemplate what just happened and envision what might happen in the new season. Even major league baseball, with its 162-game schedule, plays no meaningful games for nearly five months.

(As a quick aside, Major League Soccer's interminable schedule runs from March 10 to Dec. 1 this year, nearly nine months. Is it any wonder the league cannot sustain public interest?)

The proposal to reshape golf's schedule -- and start the 2014 season in October 2013 -- might not generate the buzz that tour officials hope. Woods and Mickelson long ago campaigned for a shorter season, and the "playoffs" delivered. The big names often convene at tournaments in September, then vanish for three-plus months.

They will not magically migrate to the Bay Area in October just because the Frys.com Open counts as the "season opener." Even the top players who add fall events will find time to take a break, which could diminish the West Coast swing in January and February.

It's a tricky quest, trying to enliven golf in the fall -- a time when even tour pros turn their attention to the NFL.

X...X...X

Pointing the right way: D.A. Points brought little name recognition (the initials stand for Darren Andrew, incidentally) when he earned his maiden PGA Tour victory in last year's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Let's be honest: The tournament will be remembered more for his pro-am partner, actor/comedian Bill Murray, winning for the first time.

Points plunged back into anonymity the rest of 2011, collecting only one more top-10 finish (at the PGA Championship). On the brink of next week's return to Pebble Beach, though, Points is finding a groove: He tied for 12th, tied for sixth and tied for eighth in his first three starts this season.

"I know what I need to do to get back in the winner's circle," he said by phone this week. "A lot of it is preparation; if I do that really well, then I can relax more on the course."

Points seemed plenty relaxed playing alongside Murray, not at all bothered by the roving sideshow. They clicked so well, Murray traveled to Augusta, Ga., in April to follow Points during a practice round at the Masters and then hang out afterward.

They often trade text messages, and they're planning to play at Cypress Point on Wednesday, as they did on the eve of the 2011 event. Now they simply need to work on the clumsy chest bump they attempted in last year's final round, after Points holed out from the fairway on No. 14.

"When one player jumps and the other one doesn't, it's not going to be good," Points said, chuckling. "I went all-in and he pulled up short. If and when I hole out this year, I'll make sure I'm prepared."

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