Las Vegas PGA stop trending up

Many top professional golfers including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson routinely have skipped October's Las Vegas PGA Tour stop.

That date may be well-chosen to avoid the valley's searing summer heat, but it made the tourney at TPC Summerlin less relevant, coming at the end of the PGA calendar, long after the majors and weeks after the FedEx Cup was settled.

Many of the players seen here have tended to be those trying to win enough money to hang onto their tour cards.

The lack of big-name drawing power, as well as the fact the tournament used to be scattered among several local courses, held down spectator turnout. Only about 35,000 fans showed up during the four-day event last year - as opposed to the average of more than 150,000 attendees at many tour events around the country.

But that may change now, with the PGA's announcement Tuesday of a new "wrap-around" yearlong tournament schedule, kicking off in October 2013 with the Open, near San Jose. That would likely make Las Vegas the second stop on the new start-in-October schedule.

"I think this is the light that we were all kind of reaching for," responds local tournament director Adam Sperling. "To be able to attain it is a great success for everybody involved and the city of Las Vegas."

The Las Vegas tournament also just landed a five-year extension with Shriners Hospitals for Children to remain as title sponsor through 2018.

It's all about star power, and also boosting that factor should be the planned increase of the tournament purse from $4.5 million this year to $6 million in 2013 - with more growth planned in each successive year of the contract.

"Certainly, we anticipate a stronger field with some more recognizable names," says Mr. Sperling. "We've seen our attendance grow each of the last three years, so we're trending in the right direction."

The event still needs more community support. But these changes bode well for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to draw bigger crowds from out of town, starting in 2013. And that's this city's lifeblood.