The MONY Tournament of Champions at La Costa Country Club in Carlsbad, Calif., serves as the official kick-off event this week on a rearranged, expanded and enriched PGA Tour schedule.
The 1986 schedule includes 46 official events--three more than last year--plus seven others that have approved but unofficial status.
The entire tour, which opened with the unofficial Bahamas Classic last week, has at least one tournament per week through Dec. 14, 1986, and has stops in at least four countries, not including the British Open.
Although purses for all events have not been announced, the tour's total purse is expected to surpass the $25 million distributed last year.
The Vantage Championship in San Antonio, Tex., and the new International tournament in Denver will help increase the 1986 total. Each has a purse of $1 million or more, as does the Las Vegas Invitational.
In addition, there's more than $3 million from the unofficial tournaments and a new, $2 million bonus pool. The figures apply only to the men on the main PGA Tour and does not include the women's tour and Seniors circuit.
The Seniors also open their growing, prospering tour this week with a concurrent Tournament of Champions at La Costa. The Seniors T of C offers $100,000 in prize money and ushers in a 30-tournament schedule with a total value of about $6 million.
The T of C also represents one of the major changes on the tour for the year. It moves from its traditional April date to the first official event of the season and is being played in connection with the rest of the West Coast swing.
"The Tournament of Champions is now to golf what the Super Bowl is to football and the World Series is to baseball," said Allard Roen, general chairman of the event. "All the champions of 1985 can now battle it out to determine the champion of champions."
The tournament has a Wednesday-through-Saturday format to avoid conflict with Sunday telecasts of the NFL conference championships.
The T of C, bringing together the winners of offical tour events from the last 12 months, also underscores what happened in U.S. golf during the past year. Among the missing names are Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino.
None was a winner, and in their absence golf was unable to produce a clear leader or leaders during 1985.
Curtis Strange and Lanny Wadkins each won three tournaments in 1985, the only players to win that many in two full seasons.
"There are so many good players now, not great players but dozens and dozens of really good players, that it's all but impossible for a man to win more than two or three tournaments a year," said veteran Hale Irwin, a two-time U.S. Open champion who will be making his 13th appearance in the Tournament of Champions.
"The days of a player winning six or seven or eight tournaments, like Johnny (Miller) did a few years ago, those days are gone forever," he said.
But Watson, winner of a record six Player of the Year designations, is not so sure.
"Someone always will establish themselves as No. 1," said Watson, who is changing his schedule in an attempt to regain his dominant position in the game.