‘A schedule change will help the USP GA shed its label as the least prestigious of the four majors’
If the major powers that be in golf (otherwise known as the PGA Tour) get their way, next year’s US PGA Championship at Bellerive CC in St Louis, Missouri could very well be the last time the event takes place in August. There are strong indications that it will move to May in 2019. The reasons for the schedule change are plentiful but the main catalyst is financial – the PGA Tour’s desire to shift its FedEx Cup Play-off Series from September to August, thereby avoiding a TV ratings clash with the popular NFL (American Football).
To facilitate the move, the PGA Tour’s flagship event – The Players – would revert to its former date in March. This is particularly interesting given that it was only 10 years ago that Tim Finchem was telling us Sawgrass was a much better golf course in May and that the later date would enable them to present it in much better condition and attract more viewers.
Talk to the players, though, and they’ll tell you the real reason was to distance The Players from the Masters to give it a stronger identity. Did anybody say, “fifth major?”
Politics aside, it’s a win-win for all parties on the other side of the pond. The proposed changes would give the PGA Tour a string of premier events each month from March through August – The Players, Masters, US PGA, US Open, Open and FedEx Cup play-offs. At the same time, the US PGA will be more likely to attract more TV viewers and shed its label as the least prestigious major if it’s not jammed into the narrow window between the Open and FedEx Cup.
What this all means for the European Tour, though, is not quite so clear. Our own BMW PGA would probably need to move in order to avoid a date-clash with the US PGA, but to when? It is often said (not by the Tour this time) that Wentworth is a better course in late autumn than early summer, so a September date might enable Keith Pelley to attract more top Americans to these shores once the FedEx Cup is done and dusted. You can read more about this and other big questions surrounding next month’s PGA in our preview starting on p62. Enjoy the issue.