By DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The PGA Tour announced a 10-year extension for the title sponsorship of the FedEx Cup, giving the lucrative series continuity for another decade and allowing some flexibility as the tour explores reshaping its season.
Terms of the new deal were not disclosed Tuesday, though PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said he expects the payout to “increase significantly” from its $35 million bonus pool and $10 million prize for the winner.
It keeps the same name of the FedEx Cup for the first 21 years of the competition.
“I think it’s critical, and it’s a historic day,” Monahan said.
The FedEx Cup began in 2007 as a way to give the PGA Tour a definitive close to its season once the four major championships ended in August. Tiger Woods won the first edition of the FedEx Cup and remains the only two-time winner. Rory McIlroy won it last year.
Before the FedEx Cup came along, the tour season began in January and ended in late October or early November. The FedEx Cup brought massive restructuring with a points system for players to qualify for four playoff events that culminated with the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup champion.
The tour now is looking to tighten the schedule even more so that the FedEx Cup ends before the start of the NFL season. That could involve moving The Players Championship back to March (instead of this week), and cooperation from the PGA of America to consider moving the PGA Championship to the spring.
“For now, we’re just announcing the extension through 2027,” Monahan said. “As we went through this process, we’ve identified a number of ways for us to continue to enhance the magnitude and consequence of the FedEx Cup, and … that’s complicated. There’s still some other moving parts that we need to get to before we’ll be able to announce any additional changes.”
Monahan said the “foreseeable future” is the current schedule that starts in October (three weeks after the Tour Championship) and ends in late September. He said the tour has not made any “firm decisions” on change.
“I think FedEx has a great deal of confidence that wherever we end up with our schedule on a long-term basis and however we create the FedEx Cup season and the playoffs, all of that will be done in a way that’s going to be in the best interest of the Cup and our players,” Monahan said.
Patrick Fitzgerald, the senior vice president of integrated marketing for FedEx, said the company based in Memphis, Tennessee, only wants the FedEx Cup to end at a point of “maximum excitement for the tour.”
“I don’t know what the best answer will be yet, and that’s why we are so fortunate that we have a close, collaborative working relationship with the tour, and they have a very clear view of some potential things that could change and how that would affect things,” he said. “So I’m confident that if the schedule changes, it will be in the best interest of golf and of the FedEx Cup.”
The extension through 2027 goes well beyond the tour’s television contracts with NBC, CBS and Golf Channel, which expire in 2021. The tour signed its latest network deal in 2011 when Tiger Woods was recovering from leg injuries and the breakdown of his personal life. The FedEx extension was announced after Woods had his fourth back surgery and will spend at least the rest of the season recovering.
Fitzgerald said even without Woods, there is no shortage of stars.
“I would say there is no more exciting time about the future of the game based on the players that are rising to the top of the tour right now,” he said. “And that is with no reflection on any past generation or groups of players.”
Monahan said more changes are possible to the FedEx Cup, though he said there was no discussion about rotating the Tour Championship out of East Lake in Atlanta, where it has been played every year since 2004.
(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)