PGA Championship moves to May, The PLAYERS to March. What does it mean for both organizations and other PGA TOUR events.
The rumor is true. The PGA Championship is moving to May and The PLAYERS is moving back to March. But not until 2019. Details are still to be sorted out for the rest of the 2019 PGA TOUR season and what it means for other events starting in that year. The announcement was made at a press conference at the PGA Championship.
According to PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua and PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan, the move was stimulated by the need to rework the golf season due to the Olympics and the PGA TOUR’s desire to finish the FedExCup by Labor Day. The two golf organizations have come together to create what they both believe is a win.
At the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse, several members of the media were invited to ask additional questions of Jared Rice, who is executive director of The PLAYERS. The reaction to the PGA TOUR’s commercial partners for The PLAYERS, he indicated, was “overwhelmingly positive.”
Rice, added that, “Statistically, it has had the best field in golf for some time.”
It definitely makes The PLAYERS the first really big tournament of the season, other than a limited field WGC.
Accommodating Olympic golf
According to Bevacqua, the PGA began deliberating on a potential change once the situation with the Olympics came up.
“Our analysis began in 2013 and included an extensive list of factors, including having to shift the date every four years to accommodate the Olympic Games,” Bevacqua explained in a prepared statement.
In his press conference Bevacqua added,
"The logic of announcing Harding Park in 2020 as a PGA Championship, afforded us the ability to change the date, maybe to February, March, August, we liked that."
Then the PGA TOUR visited the PGA of America about a year ago, according to Bevacqua, and said they knew the PGA was struggling with the Olympic event impacting them every four years.
Bevacqua recalled that meeting:
"Jay and his team came to visit us at PGA of America headquarters and said, ‘Hey, we know you’re going through this process. If we would consider moving The PLAYERS Championship back, do you think the organization would consider moving the PGA Championship to a May date?’”"
Concurrently, the PGA TOUR has been meeting with several tournaments regarding their flexibility in dates to accommodate a desire to have the FedExCup finished by Labor Day or shortly thereafter rather than the end of September. Jack Nicklaus, for example, was asked whether he might consider hosting a PGA or changing dates to accommodate a PGA Championship move.
In his prepared statement Monahan explained the rationale driving the schedule change.
"The calendar for the PGA TOUR season is among the most important and challenging aspects of our business, and the changes we’re unveiling today give significant flexibility to create a schedule, including the FedExCup Playoffs, that is in the best interests of players, fans, tournaments, communities and our partners, from start to finish."
Are weather worries also a consideration?
For both parties, one huge concern is the weather. However, both say they are happy with the change, although an actual calendar date has not yet been selected and will not be for many months to come.
For the PGA of America, the schedule change opens up more locations across the country because nearly everyone can play golf everywhere in the lower 48 states in May. Officials anticipate that the PGA will move to a week before the Memorial Day holiday and after Mother’s Day. The PGA could not change for 2018 because selling is already underway for the 2018 PGA Championship in the St. Louis area at Bellerive CC. They also like it because it’s the beginning of the golf season for half of the U.S. and gives the pros at courses in that part of the country a better chance to promote golf.
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The PGA TOUR, likes March because their corporate sponsors are positive on the date and because it coincides with spring break for many communities in the north, which their sponsors also like. There have also been comments dropped here and there as to the condition of the golf course in May versus March. The surface is Bermuda in May and was overseeded rye grass in March.
The extensive renovation work on the TPC Sawgrass golf course, according to superintendent Tom Vlach, who was on site at TPC Sawgrass, included the addition of the SubAir system and what he termed miles of drainage, will solve the problems that the course had with rain in March.
Monahan dropped comments about the Florida swing, which used to have five events in a row.
"I think the condition of the golf course is one of the primary factors, and we are very comfortable with what we are going to be able to deliver in 2019,” he explained. “I’d also say that by moving back to March, you see the sequence of events, having what is a Florida Swing or reverting back to what was a very strong portion of the schedule is something that’s potentially appealing to us as we go down the road."
That would lead a questioning person to ask when the event will be played in March, and it was asked, and they don’t have that detail nailed down yet.
Rice, in his side comments at the clubhouse, mentioned St. Patrick’s Day in passing. But no one knows for sure what the date will be, and there are plenty of tournaments to keep happy. In years past, The PLAYERS was the last week of March just because it is much cooler in North Florida than South Florida in early March and the fans have a better experience when it’s warmer.
Regarding the rest of the season, post Labor Day, Monahan, in the press conference, would not comment on any tournament movement other than to say that the PGA TOUR would be starting the wrap-around season after the conclusion of the regular season and that approximately 46 tournaments would be played.