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Hard to tell just what PGA schedule changes do to Kapalua

March 21, 2012 - Robert Collias
We were the only Hawaii media to talk to Maui's own Mark Rolfing today after new broke that the PGA Tour schedule has shifted to a fall start. To make a long story short, Q School is gone and the official start of the PGA Tour season has shifted from the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua to the fall, after the Tour Championship. Kapalua keeps its spot on the calendar as the first event of the calendar year (for now, at least), but it is no longer the opener.

After six top-10-ranked players in the world decided to skip Kapalua for various reasons in January, it became very apparent that something needs to be done to draw the likes of Rory McIlroy (No. 3 at the time) and Luke Donald (No. 1) to this event. The other top-10s (at the time) who skipped Kapalua this year for various reasons included No. 4 Martin Kaymer, No. 5 Adam Scott, No. 7 Dustin Johnson and No. 9 Charl Schwartzel.

Here is the full Q & A from the quick interview we had with Rolfing, a Kapalua resident, NBC Sports and Golf Channel analyst, and the event organizer for Kapalua in 2011 (read it if you're a golf fan, he has a lot of good ideas):

Maui News: What does this mean for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua?

Mark Rolfing: "I think a lot of that is still to be determined. This is not really a huge surprise that this got approved. It has been in the making for some time now. I think the biggest issue for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions really hasn't changed — it still remains what creatively is going to be done to to attract the top players to play in that event? There has been a fairly steady decline over the last that is more than just a trend. I don't really think this changes things a lot other than it is not the start of the official PGA Tour season anymore, which certainly isn't going to help the situation. It is going to magnify the fact that the eligibility has to be restructured."

MN: Ideas for that?

Rolfing: "There's a couple of ways to go. One of my thoughts has always been, particularly if this is not going to be the start of the season, but in the middle of the season, I like that all-star-game concept. I think that golf has a chance to do what no other major sport does and that is to have an all-star game that really, really matters and they could do it here. You would start with the tournament winners being the first all-stars in the game. And then you would expand on that, just like Pro Bowl players are added and baseball players are added and you would add to that group to expand the eligibility."

MN: Award FedEx points to that all-star tournament?

Rolfing: "Absolutely. You have got to continue to try and make it one of the most important tournaments of the year for the PGA Tour, regardless of where it falls in the calendar. It always has been and needs to continue to be one of the PGA Tour's most important events."

MN: Should fan voting be included?

Rolfing: "I could go either way on that. I like the idea of getting the fans more involved. I think if I had to make a choice right now, I would probably start with the top 30 that get into the Tour Championship at the end of the FedEx Cup. I think those top 30 ought to get in that tournament. That ought to be the real icing on the cake for them to be able to get in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions three months later."

MN: How big a deal is this development for Kapalua and its event?

"I think the real news item is that it no longer starts the season. What is going to be the plan to ramp up the promotion of that event during that six-week time that they are off, from middle-November until Hyundai Tournament of Champions? If it is not all about starting a new season, then what is it going to be? There has to be some sort of plan, promotional plan, to really make that exciting because it is no longer the start. That is going to be important, that is going to be critical."

Here is a link to a transcript and video of what commissioner Tim Finchem said and what the PGA Tour staff wrote on its website. Kapalua's event is mentioned prominently in both.


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