REARDON: Time To Shake Up PGA Tour Calendar
A couple of weeks ago I responded to Geoff Ogilvy’s remarks about the “ordinary” nature of the PGA Championship and promised to revisit the issue later. This week I offer a proposal that might boost the luster of that Championship and strengthen Tour golf all together.
Even though I believe these ideas make sense, I also believe they have no chance of ever happening.
The one issue Ogilvy raised about the PGA I completely agree with is its place on the calendar has something to do with its lack of electricity compared to its three siblings. Even the PGA of America acknowledged that, when years ago, it briefly experimented by moving early on the schedule, before the Masters. My solution involves a total restructuring of the major schedule on all three Tours.
The idea is to take the concept of the July Opens in Britain and build a March-to-August schedule of monthly major triple headers.
The first step would be to take the Players Championship and return it to its March, pre-Masters slot. With the Players the last full week in March, the LPGA could take its first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, to the week before the Masters, in April.
Leaving Augusta in its same place, the week after the Masters could be the first of the majors on the Champions Tour, most likely The Tradition, which would not be weather-sensitive at that time. Four weeks, The Players and three consecutive majors.
With the Players out of May, another trio of events could be staged toward the end of the month and into early June. The LPGA Championship, now anchored in Rochester, should find weather suitable for the second last week of the month. That would be followed by the biggest change of all, the PGA Championship the last week in May.
Late spring rain would always be a concern, but is that any worse than the predictable oppressive heat of August? Plus Memorial Day weekend offers an even stronger tie to the PGA’s new affiliation with veteran causes.
The week following the PGA would be US Senior Open week, at the start of June.
The US Open would stay in its traditional spot around Fathers Day weekend and the one week gap between the Senior Open and the US Open gives the USGA staff time for the logistical turnaround needed to stage their two events.
Leaving a week open following the American Open, the PGA of America could return the seniors to the spotlight with their Senior PGA Championship, an event scheduled for St. Louis in 2013 in May.
Continuing the cluster of threes concept, the US Women’s Open would stay in its early July position. The remainder of July would remain in place with the Open, Senior British Open and British Women’s Open wrapping up the month.
That positions the PGA Tour to look at a great run in August. With all four of their majors out of the way, August could become FedEx month. The WGC event at Firestone could become the last stop before the FedEx series, occupying the space previously used by the PGA Championship, or in fairness to the players, it would begin August and leave a regular Tour stop like Wyndham to nail down final FedEx points.
On this calendar, New York, Boston and Chicago — the FedEx series stops — would only carry as far as the first week in September, with a Labor Day finish for qualifying for the Tour Championship…a week before the NFL starts grabbing sports headlines. As an added adjustment, rotate those three each year, moving one up in the rotation, so that each would be the finale once every three years in the cycle.
After a week, the Tour Championship in Atlanta would culminate the regular Tour season. Both the LPGA and Champions Tours have fifth majors remaining, and they could fit anywhere on the August/September calendar ideally, perhaps looking at the two non-FedEx weekends as the best fit.
What would you have on the calendar is parade of big events in professional golf rolling from the end of March to Labor Day weekend with few interruptions. March/April would give you the Players and three majors in a five-week span. May/June would give you five majors in a seven-week interval and July would host four majors, one in the US and three overseas.
The Seniors would be out of that British/US Senior Open back-to-back killer. The LPGA would be strengthened by riding the major momentum of the new groupings. The PGA Championship would have escaped the end of the summer doldrums and get a chance to host a fresher field of competitors.
Are there problems left unresolved? Sure. Each Tour would have to face some choices positioning their other stops. The PGA would lose its Ryder Cup points wrap up every two years and the club pros would need a different timetable for their twenty exemptions into the field. The Players would face the greater possibility of weather back in March and the course revisions at Sawgrass would have to be adjusted for the season.
The biggest challenge would be for the media, especially television. Even though I would argue the clustering would build audiences, it probably would stress on-site crews logistically. The gain for such sacrifice? In a space of 26 weeks golf fans would have 22 compelling Sunday finishes at events high profile in professional golf.
Just a thought.
Dan Reardon is Golf Editor at KMOX. He can be heard throughout the week on America’s Sports Voice.