Big changes to the PGA Tour schedule have been discussed for months, going back to the announcement last August that the PGA Championship would be moving to May, thus necessitating the PGA Tour to shift its signature event to March.
That meant a significant shakeup would occur, so there should have been no surprises when commissioner Jay Monahan announced the official version that includes 46 events in 2018-19 and an earlier conclusion before Labor Day.
It was a huge undertaking, with television partners, sponsors and long-time tournament hosts having to work to make the pieces fit. Understandably, not everything will be perfect, and so we take a look at the good -- and the not-so-good.
PGA Championship moves to May. This paves the way for the PGA Tour to end its season earlier, and thus it gives the game four major championships in consecutive months starting with the Masters in April and ending with The Open in July. There is very little time for any lull between the majors. Plus, the Players Championship gets its old March date back -- a significant tournament a month before the first major.
Putting the Players back in March makes for an incredibly crammed period that will require review. Look at this run of tournaments starting with Pebble Beach in February and continuing with the Genesis Open at Riviera, WGC-Mexico Championship, Honda Classic, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Players Championhip, Valspar Championship, WGC-Dell Match Play, Valero Texas Open and Masters.
In a 10-week stretch come two of the tour's most iconic tournaments (Pebble and Riviera), two WGCs, Arnold Palmer's tournament, the tour's signature event in the Players and the year's first major -- the Masters. If you're the Honda Classic or the Valspar Championship, you have to be wondering what you did wrong.
The PGA Championship move to May gives the event a jolt, a chance to explore other venues in some not-so-hot-and-rainy August climates while also moving up in the order and continuing interest levels from the Masters through to the U.S. Open.
The PGA is scheduled for Bethpage next year, for Trump National in New Jersey in 2022 and Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. in 2023 -- inviting potentially troublesome weather and agronomy issues in those parts of the country in mid-May. Also, the PGA is not taking the Players Championship's old date, but going a week later in May, meaning the annual Dallas and Forth Worth stops on the schedule had to be split.
Ending the PGA Tour season before the start of NFL and college football has long been discussed as imperative to the health of those events. Despite excellent fields and compelling competition, television ratings have suffered, no doubt leading FedEx to insist on something different when it renewed with the tour for 10 more years to be its flagship sponsor. Next year, the Tour Championship in Atlanta will be played the weekend before Labor Day. With just three playoff events instead of four, it should be easier to sustain interest while also attracting all of the players.
Having a World Golf Championship event follow The Open six time zones away seems like a bad idea. But with umbrella sponsor FedEx sponsoring the tournament in Memphis, you can bet PGA Tour brass will be putting considerable pressure on players to show up. So even though a major championship has been moved to end the season earlier, it really doesn't alleviate any of the scheduling glut for big-name players who are, at minimum, looking at five tournaments in six weeks, including a major and a WGC. It is unclear at this point if the schedule will allow for some spacing in the future.
Golf-mad markets in Minnesapolis and Detroit are rewarded with PGA Tour events, the Canadian Open moves off a tough date after The Open, the WGC event in Akron loses a sponsor in Bridgetsone but picks up a big one in FedEx.
Long-time tournament Houston loses its spot before the Masters and is moving to the fall in 2019; Greenbrier is also moving to the fall, although that might be a better place for the tournament; Tiger Woods loses what was supposed to be a legacy event for him celebrating the military in Washington, D.C.
To Be Determined ...
How will the PGA Tour crown its FedEx Cup champion? With only three playoff events, change is inevitable. But will it be more of the same -- a continuation of a points chase? Or will it be something more dramatic, with more drama build into the Tour Championship?
How will the Olympic Games fit into the 2020 schedule? The men's event in Japan is expected to be played July 30-Aug. 2, meaning it starts two weeks after The Open and the same week as the Wyndham Championship. Would the FedEx Cup playoffs begin the following week?
When will the fall schedule begin? With the Tour Championship completed in late August, the PGA Tour will not be taking a big chunk of time off. Instead, it is likely to start again in early September. It has to accommodate for the Houston and Greenbrier events as well the possibility of another event in Asia to join those already in Malaysia, South Korea and China.