It’s been a topic in the golf world now for almost a year: What’s going to happen to the PGA Tour’s schedule after the PGA Championship moves up to May for the 2019 season?
The possible ripple effects of such a move — which might seem like nothing more than a date change to a passerby — were rather massive. It would force the Players Championship back to March, allow the FedEx Cup playoffs to shift up to early August, and perhaps leave an uncertain future for traditional PGA venues that would struggle logistically to be prepared for an early May event. Would it leave the Midwest and Northeast with limited events to see pro golf? Would other events struggling for sponsorship get crossed off the schedule?
We need not speculate any further.
Early this morning, the PGA Tour released the full schedule for the wraparound 2018-2019 season, which will still start in early October at the Safeway Open in Napa, but conclude about a month earlier than normal on August 25, 2019 at the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.
There’s a lot to digest here, but let’s quickly hit the significant changes
The Players is back where it should be. The PGA Championship’s going to be horrifyingly early. The Open is now your final major of the year.
We already knew these were coming, but let’s get the simple stuff that’s already been talked about ad nauseam out of the way. There’s something nice about kicking the golf schedule off with The Players, moving back to the March location it’s been in for the majority of its history. That keeps it tightly within the Florida swing, it falls within Spring Break time for a good portion of both college-types and parents with kids that might like to travel to it. Only drawback? It’s likely going to compete for airtime with Selection Sunday, but no one wants to watch that drawn-out disaster anyway. Leak the bracket and we’re all in good shape.
Full disclosure: I’ve been skeptical of the PGA Championship’s move to May since it was announced last year, and seeing where it falls on this schedule only reaffirms what a disaster it could be. Hosting a major at Bethpage starting May 13 is, well, aggressive. You’re going to need spring weather and winter weather to cooperate to have the place pristine. It’s also incredibly weird that we’ll finish the major season at Portrush next year, but, sure, whatever, guess we’ll get over that.
We’re down to 3 Playoff events that end before football, and Boston and New York will now share one regular Tour stop.
Did you like the annual Labor Day weekend trip to TPC Boston? Neat! It’s gone now.
As part of Tour commish Jay Monahan’s edict to finish the danged season before football, we’ve shrunk the FedEx Cup Playoffs to only three events — which is probably fine in and of itself. The second Boston event faced some title sponsor uncertainty, and the cut from 125 to 100 was somewhat unnecessary. Still, it was a fun event, players liked it, and it should probably be on the schedule somewhere.
It’s a strange choice to have massive population centers like Chicago (sharing BMW with Indianapolis, St. Louis, Denver, and Philly among others) and New York (now sharing Northern Trust with Boston) not have a guaranteed PGA Tour stop every year.
Midwest Swing back! Welcome to the PGA Tour rota, Minnesota and Detroit.
We’re adding two new events to the PGA Tour schedule for next year — and both will come in an area fairly underserved with regular PGA Tour events in recent years. The Rocket Mortgage Classic and 3M Classic will occupy the late June/early July section of the schedule and bring events to Detroit and the Twin Cities respectively.
It’s hard to project what kind of fields these events will draw. Are we looking more the Tiger-led fields at the Buick Classic in Grand Blanc, or, like the end-stage Greater Milwaukee Open here? Hard to tell. It’s safe to assume one event will attract a stronger field than the other over time. The Detroit event, with Dan Gilbert & Co.’s money behind it, might be best suited to be the one that thrives given the spot on the schedule. Whatever the case, we’ll get a full Midwest swing of Detroit-Minneapolis-Quad Cities right before the Open Championship.
One thing to watch here: Assuming the schedule holds overseas, the Midwest swing will directly compete for players with the Rolex Series events that lead into The Open on the European Tour. The French, Irish, and Scottish Opens have increased purses now, provide better prep for the year’s final major, and seem to attract more and more Americans. Could we see a situation where well-positioned American stars set-up shop in Europe for a month ahead of the year’s last major, while bubble players in need of FedEx Cup points stay back? Seems possible, at least.
RIP to the National and the Bridgestone. Hello, to Memphis and extreme humidity.
Sponsors make the decisions. We knew this, but Tiger’s event was basically held hostage by Dan Gilbert’s demands to get a Tour stop for his hometown of Detroit. It works out. The National had somehow ended up with one of the worst fields on Tour this year. Tiger’s foundation is also running Riviera now and The National lost most of its appeal when it got booted from Congressional.
Firestone’s annual WGC event in August is now, uh, in Memphis — and they’ll get the Senior Players event to replace it.
Anyway, Memphis. In August. The week right after The Open. Thank FedEx when you’ve sweat through seven shirts following a group around TPC Southwind by the fourth hole next year!
RIP to the Greenbrier and Houston, which will be revived for the 2019-2020 Fall Series.
You might not really notice this, as both events will still be played next year — but we’re going to go a season without Greenbrier and Houston. That’s somewhat sad. Greenbrier’s developed into a nice, alt-event every year, but the tournament’s director stated this past weekend on PGA Tour Radio that they expect to be the opening event to the fall season in 2019. Probably not bad for a vacation spot if that’s poised to be over Labor Day Weekend or sometime late September.
Houston is a different story. Golf Club of Houston really, really thrived as a pre-Masters prep spot, and generally attracted a nice field because of it. Still, playing this season without a title sponsor hurt the tournament’s cause — and a long-term commitment from Valero pushed the Texas Open into the pre-Masters slot.
Replacing Houston with a trip to TPC San Antonio as the Masters prep event is, well, not great.
Holy crap, Colonial and the Valspar are so incredibly screwed.
With all this schedule rearranging, someone was going to get a bad draw. Bad news for the Valspar Championship and the newly-named Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in Fort Worth. Both are now sandwiched in spots that seem almost certain to be weeks off for big stars that were in their respective fields this year.
That was kind of expected for Colonial. Organizers there are likely just happy to see the event on the schedule, as it again struggled for a title sponsor in the interim in 2018. Charles Schwab came to the rescue of the Tour’s longest running event at its original host site, and it’ll remain a Tour stop for the long-term. The problem? It’s one of only three events between the PGA Championship and US Open, and it’s going to fall immediately before Jack’s Memorial Tournament — which always attracts a big-time field. Safe to say Jordan Spieth reappearing in Fort Worth next season might be unlikely.
But, man, what a rough blow for the Valspar. The Innisbrook event seemed like it was on the upswing after a wildly successful event in 2018 thanks to one Tiger Woods. It was a bit of a shock when the forgotten Florida event landed Big Cat on somewhat short notice, but ticket sales skyrocketed — and TV ratings were massive when Tiger surged back into real contention for the first time in years on Sunday. That seemed like major positive momentum.
Still, if there’s a Florida event to get the short end of the stick, it’s going to be Valspar. Honda’s got Jack’s backing, Arnie’s event is Arnie’s event, and a WGC the next week in Austin doesn’t help the cause.