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New finish, new season-long points series on tap

ATLANTA -- Tiger Woods walked wearily across the parking lot
in twilight Wednesday, recalling the year he played eight
consecutive weeks as he wrapped up his record-setting 2000 season.

"I was wiped out at the end of the year," he said.

Woods might want to get used to playing long stretches under a
new PGA Tour schedule in 2007 that commissioner Tim Finchem said
would include the "most impactful series of events in the history
of our sport."

It includes a season-long points race called the FedEx Cup. It
features three blockbluster events leading to the Tour
Championship, which would end in September, with a payoff that
Finchem said likely will be the largest of any playoff system in
sports.

About the only thing missing was the details.

Finchem delivered a skeletal sketch of the new season, conceding
that he has not figured out where all the pieces fit and how the
points race will work. The idea was to make golf look like other
sports at the end of the year.

"We're really the only sport that doesn't have a stronger
finish than our regular season," he said.

Top players rarely compete in the same tournaments once the
major championships end in August. Four of the top five players in
the world -- Woods, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen and
Ernie Els -- played together in four tournaments before the Masters.

Goosen skipped a World Golf Championship last month, while
Mickelson is not at the Tour Championship.

Under the new model, the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone
would precede the PGA Championship. One week later would be the
start of the Championship Series, in which points accrued since
January would be prorated going into three straight tournaments,
with the top 30 eligible for the Tour Championship.

"If you want to win the cup series, you're going to have to
play those events," Woods said. "It's going to be a lot -- six out
of seven events at the end of the year, then probably a Ryder Cup
or Presidents Cup. That's a lot of golf, but after that, you're
pretty much done, which is great."

It is similar to the Chase for the championship that NASCAR
began last year, in which the top 10 drivers of the season compete
in the final 10 races for the title.

"We go so far into the football season, and so far into the
fall, that we haven't been able to get the kind of strength we see
in other sports," Finchem said. "We're the only major sport that
doesn't have a playoff system."

The first step is taking the model to TV negotiations, expected
to begin later this month.

"We have given a general flavor of the direction we're going
with our television partners," Finchem said. "They see the
possibilities in terms of strengthening our overall product."

Some players still expressed concerns.

Chris DiMarco noted that Singh, who has missed the last two
cuts, might not be eligible for the Tour Championship. Woods also
missed the cut the last time he played, two weeks ago at Disney.

Even if a player were to win all four majors, it's conceivable
he would not win the FedEx Cup or even make it to the Tour
Championship.

"What's the worst-case scenario? That our Super Bowl doesn't
have all the marquee players," David Toms said.

Finchem did not say how many players would be eligible to win
the FedEx Cup, although he said the three events in the
Championship Series would have 144 players.

The Associated Press first reported the new model in July, and
tour officials have been tweaking the concept since. They still are
unsure how the points system will work, and Finchem said there was
much work left.

"I've met with Tim five times, and I've heard five different
things," Woods said.

Multiple sources involved in the discussion, all speaking on
condition of anonymity because the tournaments have not been
announced, have said the three events leading to the Tour
Championship would be the Barclays Classic in New York, the
Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston and the Western Open. The
Western Open is still dealing with sponsorship issues and a
decision on where to play.

Golf World magazine reported last week that the Western Open
might be rotated among such markets as Minnesota, Indianapolis,
Chicago and St. Louis. Finchem mentioned that Bellerive outside St.
Louis was supposed to host the American Express Championship, an
event canceled because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The heart of the season will be shorter.

But for those tournaments concerned they might get knocked off
the schedule, Finchem said there would be six or seven other events
after the Tour Championship in which players could try to earn
their tour cards for next year.

That section of the season would be called the "Quest for the
Card," although Woods said he would not play any of those
tournaments, and other top players also would be taking time off.

Still, Finchem believes a season-long points race, coupled with
a Tour Championship in September, would mean more top players in
the same tournament.