News & Opinion

Earlier date for PGA ripples worldwide

Unless the Twitter universe is wrong, the PGA Championship is going to move to May beginning in 2019, making the PGA at Bethpage State Park on Long Island the first event in the new slot.

It also means that The Players Championship will return to March after having been played for the past decade in May, allowing the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship to conclude around Labor Day and avoid competing with the NFL.

The moves were expected to be announced in a 1 p.m. news conference today at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., site of this week’s PGA Championship.

The PGA’s change sets off a chain reaction in scheduling that the U.S. and European tours have been factoring for the past six months.

“We have two schedules that we are drafting: one whether it stays the same and the other that it moves,” Keith Pelley, chief executive officer of the European Tour, said last month at the British Open. “Assuming that it moves, we would have to move the BMW PGA Championship [from May]. Most likely we would move it into the fall. We have already had those preliminary conversations with our partners at BMW, with Rolex. We have some terrific opportunities and some terrific challenges for us as well.”

Many players told Morning Read that they like the idea of the season ending around Labor Day. They say it will help grow the game, provide better spacing between the major championships – Masters in April, PGA in May, U.S. Open in June and British Open in July – and keep golf’s FedEx Cup playoffs from running up against football for sports fans’ attention.

However, it also means that the Players will move to a month during which weather in Florida can be inconsistent and the PGA will eliminate from consideration some of the best courses because of spring weather in the Northeast.

“I used to think they ought to be a season-ender,” Matt Kuchar said of the PGA Championship. “As opposed to August, season-starter somewhat makes sense. I really think that the PGA kind of lacks identity. And I think it needs some help in solidifying itself as a proper major championship.”

Stewart Cink said the move will help the PGA of America in its grow-the-game initiatives because leaders will have months of golf to promote the game versus holding the PGA in August.

England’s Lee Westwood said the move will adversely affect his home tour in Europe.

“I'm sure that the commissioner of the PGA Tour knows that that is our flagship event,” he said. “I don't think the European Tour and its tournaments figure anywhere in the PGA Tour's thinking at all. It's a shame that three of the four majors are in the United States, for starters. If they thought about it, they would have the PGA Championship somewhere else in the world or have another major somewhere else in the world if they were really serious about growing the game.” 

The desire by the PGA Tour to return the Players to March was the impetus to move the PGA Championship. Last year’s PGA was played in late July to accommodate golf’s return to the Olympics in August. Since the proposed changes were floated, the PGA Tour has urged the PGA of America to move its premier annual event.

The changes are not as popular with at least one prominent U.S. player.

Jim Furyk, who makes his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., near Players host TPC Sawgrass, said he had been “a big proponent” of the 2007 move to schedule the Players in May. 

“Weather's so much better; the golf course plays firmer and faster,” he said. “What I remember of that golf course when it was overseeded [with winter ryegrass] is it plays slower. They tried to grow the rough up. The greens drain at a funny rate there.”

With the anticipated announcement today, opinions will vary regarding the changes to the PGA, Players and BMW PGA. This much is certain: Jay Monahan, who in January replaced the retired Tim Finchem as PGA Tour commissioner, got exactly what he wanted with an earlier finish to the season.

“I like finishing early, for sure not competing with football. I think's a big deal,” Gary Woodland said. “Getting more of a break after that, I think, is a big deal, too. Right now, we're kind of just running together. Players, fans … we lose focus. The year just never ends.”

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli