PALM BEACH GARDENS - Tampa Bay's annual PGA Tour stop does not have a sponsor for next year's event, but it will have a new spot on the schedule.
The PGA Tour is preparing to announce a shakeup to its schedule beginning in 2009, a change centered primarily on March's annual Florida Swing.
Next year, the four-week trip through Florida will begin as currently scheduled with the Honda Classic at PGA National, but in a significant change will then drive south to Miami's Doral Resort for a World Golf Championship event. Tampa Bay follows, moving into the third week, followed by the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
The current schedule begins with this week's Honda, followed by the PODS Championship, Bay Hill and Doral.
The change apparently comes at the urging of Arnold Palmer, Bay Hill's tournament host, who - after the Players Championship was moved to May - wanted his event to have the coveted final week in Florida, two weeks before the Masters.
Although the PGA Tour has not made the change public, tournament directors already have been informed of the impending announcement.
"We are still doing some adjusting and have not finalized the schedule, but because tournaments need to start reserving hotel rooms and making commitments, we went ahead and made some notifications," said Ed Moorhouse, PGA Tour co-chief operating officer.
There is reason to speculate on potential effects of the move. By moving Doral two week earlier, only Honda will separate two World Golf Championship events - the World Match Play Championship outside Tucson, Ariz., that Tiger Woods won on Sunday, and the CA Championship at Doral, where Woods is defending champion.
Honda could benefit from the geographical proximity to Doral, allowing players to all but put down roots for a two-week stretch.
"It will be nice to be down here for a little longer," Ernie Els said. "Before, we'd go from here to Tampa, on to Orlando and then come back down here for Doral. This makes sense. This tournament will really be on my list now. It makes sense. It will be one of the premier events now."
But at Tampa Bay's expense? "Well, I'm playing four weeks in a row, but a lot of guys only play three then take a week off. So it might," Els said. "But Tampa is such a good golf course. I don't know."
Moorhouse predicted no ill effects. "We play in Tampa on a great golf course at Innisbrook," he said. "I expect it to get a great field."
With PODS ending its sponsorship of Tampa Bay's event after next week's event, tournament director Gerald Goodman already is facing a search for new corporate backing. So a new spot, one week later on the schedule, does not seem overly challenging.
"I've been very consistent since the first day they said Tampa was going to the spring," Goodman said. "We are not afraid to compete in this market in the Florida Swing. We've competed well so far in the spot we were put in. We've had a strong field and we are going to have another strong field next week.
"So, for us to go one week later, I say the same thing. We are not afraid to compete there. I was talking to a player who is top five in the world who has not come to our tournament in two years. I asked him how the new week worked for you, and right off the bat he said, 'That works. I'll be in Tampa.'
"You have to look at it as where do they want to play prior to going to the Masters."
CUT POLICY: The PGA Tour amended its divisive cut policy, giving players on the cut line one more day of competition to separate themselves from the bottom of the pack.
Starting this week at the Honda Classic, the tour will return to a traditional 36-hole cut for the top 70 and ties. If more than 78 players make the cut, there will be another cut to the top 70 and ties after the third round.
The cut policy changed this year to avoid large fields on the weekend, which led to 5 1/2 -hour rounds and disrupted the television window. When the cut was more than 78 players, the nearest number to 70 advanced to the weekend, while the others received last-place money.
PRESIDENTS CUP: Fred Couples and Greg Norman are the new captains for the 2009 Presidents Cup at Harding Park in San Francisco. It's the first time both captains have previously competed in the matches.
Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player had been captains the last three matches.