Open could move to head of PGA Tour season - Morgan Hill Times: San Martin Open could move to head of PGA Tour season

Woods, Els could return; tournament move to Fry’s Institute Golf Course next year

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Posted: Monday, January 30, 2012 4:25 pm

The Open could be set for two significant changes in 2013: a move to The Institute Golf Course in Morgan Hill and the PGA Tour regular season.

A proposal to restructure Q-school and move the start of the tour's season to fall was presented by commissioner Tim Finchem at a players meeting last week. Should it be approved, the Open could shed its Fall Series tag and join four other tournaments at the head of the 2013 season.

The Open would be held the second week in October just as it was the last two years at CordeValle Golf Club. It will likely be held at the ultra-private Institute, John Fry's personally designed course located in the foothills of southeastern Morgan Hill.

"It'd be like having the Super Bowl the first week of October next year," tournament president Duke Butler said Friday. "I can't accept congratulations yet, but we're feeling good."

The earliest Finchem's proposal could be approved by the PGA Tour Policy Board is in mid-March, Butler said. The Player Advisory Council plans to meet in three weeks.

As for Q-school, the package calls for a three-tournament series featuring the top 75 players from the Nationwide Tour and the top 75 PGA Tour players who failed to keep their cards. The top 50 players in the series would earn cards, while the rest would either go to Q-school where they could obtain Nationwide Tour status.

If the plan goes through, Open players would compete for FedEx Cup points.

"(That) would help the player field, and that certainly would help the attendance," Butler said. "We might have 75 of the top 120 players. It increases the depth of the field and adds to the excitement.

"It would definitely make an economic impact on Morgan Hill."

The Open was close to selling out all four tournament days last year after drawing big names such as Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Angel Cabrera, Justin Leonard and 2010 champion Rocco Mediate. An enormous crowd was on hand just to follow Woods throughout his tied-for-30th finish.

The tournament also benefited from an exciting finish as Bryce Molder defeated Briny Baird on the sixth hole of a sudden-death playoff. Open organizers have made a serious push for their event to join the tour's regular schedule since the 2011 edition. Andy Pazder, PGA Tour chief of operations, encouraged tournament chairwoman Kathy Kolder to send a letter to Finchem and the policy board requesting the Open lead off the PGA Tour's 2013 season.

"We've had two successful tournaments so far, and we're going to have a similar if not possibly better event this year," Butler said. "We hope to be playing it (next year) at The Institute, and our dream would be the new tournament of a fiscal year."

The possibility of that has made Jeff Sanchez's first three months as Open director nothing short of eventful. The 37-year-old Santa Clara resident and former head pro at Silver Creek Valley Country Club was hired in November to replace Ian Knight.

"It's been exciting for us to hear some of the discussion and to see it in print. There's definitely some buzz in the community," Sanchez said Monday. "It ties back to our message of putting on a great tournament and raising money for charities."

A push is underway to have Woods return to the Open for its sixth running Oct. 11-14. Butler plans to meet with Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, next week during the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which the 14-time major champion is scheduled to play in for the first time in 11 years. Woods will likely make a decision prior to the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in June.

Butler also plans to meet with Els in early March. He is optimistic Els and Woods will play again in San Martin.

Aside from that, tournament organizers will mostly be in the gallery the next few months, awaiting the policy board's decision while they recruit players and sponsors.

"A lot of the steps in front of us rest with the PGA," Sanchez said. "So we're in full support of the tour."

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