The PGA Tour released its 2013 schedule this week, with only 40 events as it prepares for a wraparound season that will start at the Frys.com Open at CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin on Oct. 10-13.
The 2013 season begins with the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua (Hawaii) on Jan. 4-7, which again features a Monday finish. The FedEx Cup concludes with the Tour Championship at East Lake (Ga.) on Sept. 19-22, and then the 2013-14 season will start in October.
For the last six years, at least four tournaments -- part of the Fall Series -- were held after the FedEx Cup ended. That gave players a chance to earn enough money to keep their cards by finishing in the top 125 on the tour money list. Next year, most of those Fall Series event will be considered the start of a new season, including the Frys.com Open.
In 2013, the Masters will be April 11-14. The U.S. Open returns to Merion (Pa.) on June 13-16. The British Open will be at Muirfield (Scotland) on July 18-21. The PGA Championship will be at Oak Hill (N.Y.) on Aug. 8-11.
The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is Feb. 7-10 at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula.
McIlroy thanked the Acushnet staff for "five very exciting and successful years."
The announcement allows McIlroy to pursue a lucrative endorsement contract, with strong indications that he'll sign with Nike in a deal that one industry observer estimated at $20 million a year. That would give Nike golf's two biggest stars in McIlroy and Tiger Woods.
"We are declining comment on rumors and speculation," Nike spokeswoman Beth Gast said.
Acushnet has a history of fiscal prudence. Woods, who had an equipment deal with Titleist when he turned pro in 1996, left for the Nike golf ball in 2000 and then the Nike golf clubs in 2002.
Phil Mickelson won his first Masters with Titleist in 2004, and the Fairhaven, Mass., company let him out of his contract later that summer to sign a lucrative deal with Callaway.
"I call it dangerous," Nick Faldo said. "I've changed clubs and changed equipment, and every manufacturer will say, 'We can copy your clubs.' But there's feel and sound, and there's confidence. You can't put a real value on that."