Golf cal­en­dar shifts

PGA Cham­pi­onship mov­ing to May for first time in 70 years, more changes likely

Ottawa Sun - - SPORTS -

CHAR­LOTTE, N.C. — Play­ers are al­lowed to wear shorts dur­ing prac­tice rounds at the PGA Cham­pi­onship. That won’t be nec­es­sary in two years when it moves to May.

The PGA of Amer­ica is mov­ing its ma­jor cham­pi­onship to May for the first time in 70 years when it goes to Beth­page Black on New York’s Long Is­land in 2019 as part of a long-term plan that in­volves a ma­jor shift in the golf cal­en­dar, in­clud­ing The Play­ers Cham­pi­onship go­ing back to its March date, The As­so­ci­ated Press has learned.

Two of­fi­cials in­volved in the dis­cus­sions say the PGA of Amer­ica and PGA Tour will dis­cuss de­tails of the move as early as Tues­day at Quail Hol­low Club, site of this year’s PGA Cham­pi­onship. They spoke to the AP on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the move has not been an­nounced.

The change has been in the works for four years, one of­fi­cial said. The cat­a­lyst be­hind the move­ment was golf’s re­turn to the Olympics, along with the PGA Tour’s de­sire to wrap up its FedEx Cup be­fore the NFL be­gins.

The move to May also puts the PGA Cham­pi­onship in the mid­dle of the ma­jor cham­pi­onship sea­son — af­ter the Masters, be­fore the U.S. Open — in­stead of be­ing stuck at the end in Au­gust when courses typ­i­cally are softer be­cause of the sum­mer heat and sports fans have one eye turned to­ward foot­ball.

Still to be de­ter­mined is the how the rest of the PGA Tour sched­ule is con­stricted to fin­ish around La­bor Day. One of­fi­cial said the play­off event in Bos­ton is likely to go away af­ter 2018. An­other of­fi­cial said one plan is for the Green­brier Clas­sic, typ­i­cally held in July, to move to the fall.

The PGA Cham­pi­onship has been in Au­gust since 1969 with two ex­cep­tions. Jack Nick­laus won in Fe­bru­ary 1971 when it was held at PGA Na­tional in South Florida, and last year it was held the fi­nal week­end in July at Bal­tus­rol ahead of the Hideki Mat­suyama, of Ja­pan, is the PGA’s cur­rent money leader. The tour is set to al­ter its sched­ule, ac­cord­ing to a re­port. Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The PGA is sched­uled for Hard­ing Park in San Fran­cisco in 2020, so there was al­ways the pos­si­bil­ity of mov­ing to May dur­ing the next Olympic year. How­ever, that would mean the PGA gets bounced around the cal­en­dar ev­ery four years.

The PGA of Amer­ica was in­ter­ested in build­ing con­ti­nu­ity, and a move to May could en­er­gize what has been looked upon as the last of the four ma­jors. That also would al­low it to go to some ar­eas that were deemed too hot for Au­gust, such as Texas, Florida and parts of the South­east. It al­ready has said the PGA Cham­pi­onship would re­turn to South­ern Hills in Tulsa be­fore 2030. The last time it was held at South­ern Hills, in 2007, tem­per­a­tures topped 100 de­grees.

The move also could serve as a boost to golf courses around the coun­try — the PGA of Amer­ica has some 27,000 golf pro­fes­sion­als — go­ing into the heart of the sea­son.

But it also elim­i­nates other parts of the coun­try from host­ing the PGA.

One of­fi­cial said two tra­di­tional sites — Whistling Straits in Wis­con­sin and Hazel­tine in Min­nesota — would not be able to host the PGA Cham­pi­onship in May. Of­fi­cials feel com­fort­able with the weather and agron­omy for Beth­page Black, and they are hope­ful for good weather in 2023 for Oak Hill in Rochester, New York.

The Play­ers Cham­pi­onship, tra­di­tion­ally held in March two weeks be­fore the Masters, moved to May in 2007 to get away from the big­gest ma­jor of the year and cre­ate a se­quence of big events through the sum­mer.

By go­ing back to March, and cre­at­ing space for the PGA Cham­pi­onship in May, it al­lows the tour to end its sea­son around La­bor Day in­stead of late Septem­ber when the NFL is in full swing, and it keeps a strong se­quence of events lead­ing into the FedEx Cup play­offs.

The PGA Cham­pi­onship cel­e­brates its 100th an­niver­sary next year, and it has a long his­tory of mov­ing around the cal­en­dar. The first one was played in Oc­to­ber in New York. Since then, it has been held in ev­ery month ex­cept for Jan­uary, March and April.

The last time it was played in May was 1949, when Sam Snead won at Her­mitage Coun­try Club in Vir­ginia. eptem­ber.

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