By now we all know that the 2014 PGA Tour schedule will look vastly different from the schedule we have grown accustomed to over the past 50 years.
Q-School will be gone, replaced by a four tournament series containing the top-75 players from the Web.com Tour and numbers 126-200 on the PGA Tour’s money list. The top-50 finishers from this four tournament series will earn their 2014 Tour cards.
Then, taking a page out of the European Tour’s book, the 2014 PGA Tour season will actually begin in late 2013 immediately following the Tour Championship and Presidents Cup. The Fall Series will no longer be four tournaments all but reserved for those attempting to play their way into the top-125 on the money list. The Fall Series as we know it will essentially cease to exist after this season.
Ok, it’s a bit of an extreme change to appease current sponsors’ demands while appealing to potentially new sponsors, but this is old news; we have been hearing about these changes for a couple of years now.
However, one aspect of the PGA Tour scheduling change that no one seems to be paying much attention to is its potential effect on the 2014 Masters.
Currently, the Masters offers invitations to winners of all PGA Tour events other than those played opposite the majors and WGCs and the Fall Series events, which currently do not carry any FedEx Cup Points. But that might all change in 2014, as the “Fall Series” will now be the true start of the 2014 PGA Tour season and each tournament will carry full FedEx Cup points.
In terms of the FedEx Cup point standings, these tournaments played in late 2013 will be just as valuable as tournaments such as The Memorial, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, The Wells Fargo Championship, etc. which will mean that Augusta National will have a very difficult time trying to justify why they would offer invitations to the winners of some PGA Tour events but not others.
Augusta National will now be faced with two very tough decisions.
Do they offer 2014 Masters Invitations to winners of the 2013 Fall Series events, and if so, will they finally be forced to play off of two tees on Thursday and Friday of Masters week?
Traditionally, Augusta National has limited the number of Masters Invitations, which has allowed them to start every group off of the first tee.
But between the absence of a dominant force on the PGA Tour, which has meant a larger number of unique winners, and the offering of invitations to new amateur events such as the Asian Amateur, August National is BARELY able to complete the first two rounds in daylight as it is.
Include four more unique winners from the 2013 Fall Series and you now have to add on at least two additional tee times.
Augusta National can control just about everything when it comes to the Masters, but controlling the sunrise and sunset times in early April would fall even beyond their scope of power.
So starting players off of two tees on Thursday and Friday could be a very real possibility for the 2014 Masters.
The other thing we have to consider is that Augusta National has recently been bowing down to outside forms of pressure for the first time in the club’s history.
Augusta National has increased The Masters’ television coverage due to pressure from the television networks.
They have also increased the number of commercials shown during the tournament, most likely as a result of pressure from their sponsors.
And finally, they have recently admitted two female members after years of intense scrutiny which had begun to pick up momentum once again in 2012 after IBM appointed a female as their CEO (Virginia M. Rometty) putting Augusta National – who typically offers membership to every IBM CEO- in a very difficult spot.
And then we come to the new PGA Tour schedule. As much as Augusta National might feel that the 2013 Fall Series events are not deserving of an automatic Masters Invitation despite the fact that they will be legitimate FedEx Cup events, the club is once again caught between a rock and a hard place.
30 years ago, Augusta National didn’t blink twice at any pressure received from outside forces, including the PGA Tour.
But that seems to have changed.
If the 2013 Fall Series is now the true start of the 2014 season, expect Augusta National to take the proper steps to once again free themselves from an uncomfortable position between a rock and a hard place.