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PGA Tour Readies to Take On World : Golf: Details of the new venture will be announced today and organizers can expect a fight for players.

November 17, 1994|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ready or not, sports gets another golf tour today with a news conference at Sherwood Country Club to announce a new golf venture that has generated great controversy before its birth.

It is the World Tour, a joint project of Fox Television and a Florida event management firm, which a wary PGA Tour expects to be in operation in 1995.

Although there has been no announcement of the new tour, most of the 20 players in the Franklin Funds Shark Shootout held a two-hour meeting with representatives of Fox and the event management firm, Executive Sports, on Wednesday.

Greg Norman, a spokesman for the World Tour, said he couldn't comment on the planned tour.

"Fox will make the announcement (today) with John Montgomery and Scott Montgomery," said Norman.

The Montgomerys operate Executive Sports, an event firm based in Delray Beach, Fla., that manages various tournaments on the PGA Tour, the Senior PGA Tour and the LPGA tour.

"There are people with higher positions than I have and they want to make the announcement themselves," Norman said.

News of the World Tour already has been a source of deep concern for PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem. The first-year commissioner released a statement Tuesday in which he expressed the PGA Tour's opposition to the rival tour.

Finchem said the World Tour plans eight to 10 events with prize money of more than $25 million, bankrolled by Fox.

Finchem also said the PGA Tour would not permit members to play the new tour.

Players received photocopies of Finchem's statement Tuesday. Brad Faxon, a member of the PGA Tour policy board, said the players' meeting Wednesday was for informational purposes.

"Obviously, you know what it's about," Faxon said. "The World Tour shown by Fox. I think the meeting was to get a good feel of what the players are thinking so that it's done the right way and we don't jeopardize our standing with the U.S. tour.

"Having tournaments like the (World Tour) is probably what everybody in the world wants to see--the top players playing each other more often, and that's not done now."

"(But) it could be very detrimental to the (PGA) Tour," he said.

The World Tour is arriving as the Federal Trade Commission continues its investigation of the PGA Tour for possible unfair methods of competition.

To prevent players from competing in World Tour events, Finchem said in his statement that the PGA Tour would enforce its television release and conflicting-event regulations--the subject of the FTC investigation.

PGA Tour rules call for a player to apply for a release to play a different tournament when an official PGA Tour event is being held. If a player plays the 15 events required to keep a PGA Tour card, the player can receive up to three releases.

The PGA Tour is taking a hard line on the World Tour. Fines and suspensions from the PGA Tour are possible for players who try it.

Arnold Palmer said he is surprised no one has tried a world tour before.

"I've said for years that there was going to be a world tour," he said. "I don't know what approach Greg is taking, but they need to put it together very, very carefully, with the blessings of the PGA Tour, the European tour and all the golf entities.

"I would hate to see anything interfere with the PGA Tour. It's been the lifeblood of golf and should continue to be the showcase of professional golf."

Although Norman would not comment directly on the World Tour on Wednesday, he made reference to it in a telephone conference call a little more than a month ago.

"Hopefully some day down the line, a world tour will come into existence because I think it's needed," he said.

"I think the world tour would be interspersed throughout the year and have it interface with the U.S. tour. I see a world tour being a tour between eight and 15 tournaments.

"I'd hate to see a world tour go out and try and fight (other) tours.

"And I would like to see it happen before I quit."

Norman has a wonderful swing and a great sense of timing.

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