This month features a fairly typical PGA Tour schedule for May. The big event is The Players Championship, and there are some other good events at top-drawer courses – the Wells Fargo, the Byron Nelson, the Colonial event and The Memorial.
But this is the last time it’s going to be like this.
The Tour announced last year that, starting in 2019, the PGA Championship will move to May. It has been contested in August since 1972 with the exception of 2016, when it moved to July to accommodate the Summer Olympics.
Therein lies part of the reason for the switch. With the pros now poised to compete in the Olympics every four years, the Tour didn’t want to have to move its last major on that cycle.
There’s a much better reason, though: Let’s call it the Must Watch factor.
Certain tournaments are Must Watch. The majors, of course. For many golf fans in California, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am can’t be missed. The Players is a good one, if for no other reason than to watch them navigate the 17th green.
But the big problem with the PGA Tour schedule, for as long as I can remember, is that there haven’t been enough Must Watch events between the Masters and the U.S. Open.
There are a lot of Pretty Goods. Some of those tournaments this month fall into that category. They’re on some cool courses. They have a good field. I’ll watch if I can.
But the schedule has never made much sense. Once The Players was moved from March to May, we had to wait what seemed like forever for the Masters. And then the wait was even longer for the U.S. Open unless you consider The Players a major, which most people don’t.
Now things will be spaced out logically.
The West Coast Swing will finish up, and then there will be some decent events in Florida before everyone heads to TPC Sawgrass for The Players. It’s a more interesting tournament, with less predictable weather, in March, and it’s the perfect leadoff event for the schedule of majors and semi-majors.
It will whet our appetite for the Masters, as it did before, and then we won’t have to wait too long for the PGA – which, in turn, will get us revved up for the U.S. Open.
Best of all, it will make The Open Championship the last major of the year. When the player holding the Claret Jug is declared the “champion golfer of the year,” it actually will mean something because it won’t be as if there’s another major right behind it.
If the playoffs are contested in August, as they figure to be, that will eliminate the pileup in the schedule caused by having the playoffs too close to the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.
When the Olympics roll around every four years, there will be a comfortable gap between The Open Championship and the Summer Games.
And it accomplishes something else: Golf no longer will contest its playoffs while the NFL season is underway.
It all fits.
I had my doubts at first. I wrote last September in this very same newsletter that I didn’t like the idea of giving in to football.
“Is America still going to be in a football frenzy in 20 years – or even in 10 years?” I wrote.
I still feel that way. But since then I’ve come up with another idea. If the NFL becomes vulnerable at some point, which still is a long way away, the Tour always could invent some new tournament for September if it so chooses.
Now that I’ve had a chance to look at this and see how it all lays out, I think it makes a lot of sense. I especially like having a major to watch in May, and I’m betting a lot of people will show their agreement by turning on their TVs – the ratings figure to be better in May than they’ve been in August, when the PGA felt more like an afterthought.
So when you’re not teeing it up, check in on how the pros are doing this month. It should be Pretty Good, but a year from now, there will be a Must Watch.