It is time to fix the PGA TOUR schedule. As a fan, I am exhausted by the current year-round, wrap-around season. Professional golf has reached the point where I don’t know what tournament the Tour is playing right now, and for the most part don’t care. Every other sport has an off-season where fans and players can recuperate and recharge. So too should the PGA TOUR.
Here’s my plan to fix the PGA TOUR Schedule:
Shorten the PGA TOUR Schedule
The overall goal is to begin the season in January with the Tournament of Champions, and close it out with the Tour Championship at the beginning of September. That would give fans — and the players — three full months to recharge their batteries.
A shorter season not only gives people a break, it focuses more attention on the events that remain. By the time the schedule comes around to the PGA TOUR’s premier event, The Players Championship, we have already slogged through eight months of golf. Eight months — thirty weeks — and the season is only two thirds over.
Who can maintain focus on the sport over that length of time? The NFL compresses the season into 17 weeks. Baseball is scheduled over 26 weeks and THAT seems to go on forever.
The fans I know have developed PGA TOUR fatigue.
Finally, a shorter season — with fewer events — should strengthen the PGA TOUR financially in the long run. There are only so many companies willing and able to sponsor Tour events. The emergence of some of the strange sponsors in recent years (I don’t need to name them, do I?) tells me that the PGA TOUR is scraping the bottom of the barrel in trying to find sponsors for 45 events.
Move the Players and PGA Championships
The key to the plan to fix the PGA TOUR schedule will be moving the Players Championship back to March, and the PGA Championship to May. This is not entirely unprecedented. For most of its existence, the Players was held in March. The PGA Championship has previously been played in May.
The PGA Championship has for years struggled to create its own identity. As it is now, the fourth Major is an afterthought in many fans’ minds. Even the Championship’s moniker — Glory’s Last Shot — has a sort of also-ran vibe.
In May, however, the PGA Championship would attract more attention. A player who won The Masters would go into the PGA with a chance to be halfway to a Grand Slam.
At that point on the calendar, the PGA Championship would ideally be played in southern states, which also would give the PGA Championship a distinct identity. The USGA has historically been reluctant to locate courses below the Mason Dixon line. Of the 116 US Opens, just fifteen have been held in nominally Southern states. If you take out the three visits to Pinehurst, and the five to Maryland (really a mid-Atlantic state), the US Open has visited the south just eight times.
So leave the mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Midwest to the USGA. The USGA headquarters is in New Jersey. The PGA of America’s is in Florida.
I love the idea of the PGA Championship as a Southern Major. You can bet that southern golf fans would turn out for a Major Championship in their communities. It would be the Kentucky Derby of the golf world. Imagine the hats, the julieps, and the hospitality.
Returning the Players Championship to its original March date will make the self-styled Fifth Major more prominent. As it is now, the Players is sandwiched between The Masters and the US Open. When The Masters is over, golf media and fans start focusing on the US Open. After the Masters, no one wonders if the winner will go on to win The Players. However, The Players in March could be viewed as a preview for which players have the game for a Majors run. I’d be interested in seeing that.
Move the WGC Match Play To February
One other significant event would need to move: The WGC Match Play. Currently scheduled in March, it would need to be moved to February. Slide it in after the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. As the WGC Match Play at this point is held in Mexico, that should not present any weather difficulties.
With the PGA Championship in March and the WGC Match Play in February, the PGA TOUR can begin its playoff schedule in early August and finish by early September. The Ryder Cup and President’s Cup then can dominate the golf news in September.
Start the FedEx Playoffs In August
The final schedule change has the FedEx Playoffs starting in August and ending by September.
As the PGA TOUR schedule now stands, the FedEx Playoffs compete with Baseball’s traditional Pennant Race, college football and the NFL. Throw in high school football, and there is no way the FedEx Playoffs can compete. Even this fanatic golf fan decides to watch football over the FedEx Cup.
The PGA TOUR may be satisfied with the ratings and attendance, but it could be so much better without the competition from other sports.
Significant Events In Every Month of The Season
This plan to fix the PGA TOUR schedule puts significant events in every month of the year:
January: Tournament of Champions
February: WGC Match Play
March: The Players
April: The Masters
May: The PGA Championship
June: The US Open
July: The Open Championship
August: The FedEx Cup Playoffs
September: Ryder Cup/President’s Cup
Bring Back The Silly Season
None of this precludes the continuation of events such as Tiger’s Hero World Challenge, the WGC HSBC Champions in China or the CIMB in Malaysia. In fact, it might even make those events more attractive, since without PGA TOUR rules, the sponsors could offer appearance fees.
Further, a shorter official schedule would not necessarily leave hosting charities in the dark. Before the wrap-around schedule, there was the “silly season” of golf, which ran from October through December. An unofficial celebrity charity event with a nice payout could likely attract much the same field as wrap-around events do today. The door also would be opened for Champions tour players — many of whom have more cachet than the Web.Com graduates — to make the fields more interesting.
In the offseason, the PGA TOUR might also find the space to put together a joint PGA TOUR-LPGA event. I’d love to see a mixed-match play event find a charity and a place in the “silly season.”
Let The Web.Com and Champions Tours Continue Into The Fall
Finally, under my new plan, the Web.Com and Champions Tours would continue their current schedules. The lack of PGA TOUR events would even serve to focus attention on those tours’ season ending playoffs. Admittedly, with fewer events, Web.Com players who graduate to the regular Tour would have fewer chances to keep their card. In this, though, they would be no worse off than under the old Q-School system.
Fix The PGA TOUR Schedule: Less Is More
Ultimately, for the PGA TOUR and the attention of its fans, less is more. Fix the PGA TOUR schedule by giving every back their offseason.