News & Opinion

Re-up with FedEx creates more questions for Tour

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The PGA Tour pulled out all of the stops for what commissioner Jay Monahan at first called a "milestone day" and later a "historic day."

There was a flurry of tweets from past FedEx Cup champions; a simulcast announcement from the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass on Golf Channel and CNBC; World No. 1 Dustin Johnson delivering the FedEx Cup trophy dressed in a FedEx uniform; and a bobblehead doll of Rory McIlroy that the defending champion thought made him look old, "like I've been on Tour two decades instead of one."

The news Tuesday, of course, was a 10-year renewal of FedEx's sponsorship of the FedEx Cup, the season-long competition that celebrated its 10th year last season. It's a big deal even if Patrick Fitzgerald, a senior vice president for the shipping giant, got a little carried away when he called the FedEx Cup "the ultimate prize on the PGA Tour."

McIlroy took a more pragmatic approach to the FedEx Cup, which has succeeded in bringing the top players together to compete after the major season by dangling $35 million in prize money, including a $10 million payout to the winner.

"It's brought another dimension to the PGA Tour," McIlroy said. "It's really gained traction. People are excited about it."

As one industry observer noted, it would've been more surprising had FedEx not re-upped. Even Monahan went so far as to say, "It took a long time, but it was never a doubt of whether it would happen."

The FedEx announcement was heavy on celebration and light on details. All we really learned from the extension news is confirmation of more riches for the players and more commercial time bought by FedEx. But securing its umbrella-sponsorship deal was the Tour's first domino in a number of decisions that could re-shape the Tour's schedule and the way fans watch the game.

During his news conference with the media, Monahan kept his cards close to the vest. It has been widely reported that the Tour would like to move the Players back to March and swap the PGA Championship from its traditional August date to May so the FedEx Cup can conclude over Labor Day weekend and avoid clashing with the NFL season.

"Right now, we don't have any plans on moving it back to March," Monahan said. "That's certainly been part of the consideration set."

Multiple sources say it is inevitable, but Monahan continues to play coy.

"You don't know that because I don't know that,” he said. “So how do you know that?"

Let's assume for the moment that the PGA of America agrees to the proposed schedule change. To end before football season, there likely would be a few casualties to the schedule. Much of the talk has focused on the Dell Technologies Championship in Boston going away and reducing the FedEx Cup playoffs from four to three.

The length of the FedEx deal – twice as long as the previous extension, in 2012 – suggests the shipping company is confident in the Tour's future broadcast plans, which run through 2021.

Another poorly-kept secret is that the Tour is exploring starting its own network. The PGA Tour can opt out of its media deal with CBS and NBC in 2018, but it is locked in to its Golf Channel deal.

When asked to address the topic of future broadcast rights, Monahan said that he admired the sports that have their own networks.

"That allows them to build their brand day in and day out and to be able to build a profile of their players, build a profile of their events underneath that brand," he said. "As it relates to owning your own network, that's a very complicated subject, and that's not something we're spending a lot of time on. We're focused on right now and building our base and being a great partner to those that we're in business with."

Figuring out the broadcast/digital strategy is Monahan's top priority. The TV landscape was very different in 2007 when Golf Channel signed a 15-year deal, and that one hasn't aged well for the Tour in comparison with rights deals in other sports or the USGA’s windfall from Fox.

When asked about the chance that the 2027 FedEx Cup might air on something like a PGA Tour Network, Monahan didn't care to speculate.

"It's hard to predict the future, and I'm getting into hypotheticals – that's not something I'm particularly good at – so the FedEx Cup is going to be what it is today, which is our season-long, the program that stitches our entire season together and is a great accomplishment for our players.

“How is that for not answering your question?"

Actually, it was pretty good.

Adam Schupak has written about golf since 1997 for the likes of Golfweek, Golf World and The New York Times. He is the author of Deane Beman: Golf's Driving Force. Email:; Twitter: @adamschupak