Brown: New schedule provides plenty of options for PGA TOUR members

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Graeme McDowell and every pro must balance travel and scheduling in 2013-2014.
November 05, 2013
By Clifton Brown, PGATOUR.COM Columnist

Every PGA TOUR player must answer three important questions.

Where to play? When to play? How often to play?

The new 2013-14 schedule gives players more options to consider. The schedule features more globetrotting than ever. Three of the first six official events were scheduled for Malaysia, China, and Mexico, respectively.

It has always fascinated me how different players put together their schedules. It’s extremely important. It doesn’t just impact their personal lives. It impacts how well they perform.

So far, the 2013-14 season is off to a roaring start. Despite Tiger Woods electing to skip the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions tournament in China this past weekend, it was a heck of a tournament. Dustin Johnson called Sunday’s victory in China the biggest of his career. Phil Mickelson also played in China, as did other former major winners such as Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, and Ernie Els.

As for Woods, he’s not expected to play an official PGA TOUR event until 2014, but as usual he’s hosting his own event, the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge from Dec. 5-8 in California. Asked about the PGA TOUR'S new schedule during a conference call in October, Woods admitted he was thinking harder about the best way to plan his year.

“For me, I’m still wrapping my head around it,” Woods said. “I think it’s going to take a little bit of time to get accustomed to. Some of the guys are playing in their local areas. ... some guys are playing overseas. This is something that is very different to us in our sport. Other sports, it’s the norm.”

In my opinion, the new schedule can work for anyone. If you want to play frequently between now and January, it gives you an opportunity to earn early FedExCup points, money, and other important perks. Jimmy Walker has already earned a spot in next year’s Masters by winning the Open last month.

If you want to take time off now, and get ready for the West Coast swing in January and February, that’s your choice. What works for one player may not work for another. Entering just 13 tournaments in 2013 worked extremely well for Steve Stricker. But not every player could pull that off, nor would they want to. Could you imagine a healthy D.A. Points, who played 28 tournaments last year, deciding to play just 13 tournaments in a year? A player who likes to play 25-plus tournaments would drive himself mad, playing just 13 times.

Players in the NFL, NBA, or Major League Baseball don’t have these kind of scheduling decisions to make. LeBron James knew the Miami Heat’s schedule as soon as the NBA released it.

However, for Woods, Mickelson, and every PGA TOUR player, the schedule is not etched in stone. Each player tries to figure out the best approach. Having success or experience doesn’t necessarily make it easier.

Mickelson said recently that he would reduce his schedule in 2014, and concentrate on peaking for next year’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst. Can you blame him? Have you ever walked around a grocery store, frustrated that you can’t find the last item you want? That’s Mickelson looking for the U.S. Open. Everything else a golfer wants, Mickelson already has in his shopping cart. So instead of playing more often, Mickelson is thinking months ahead, already plotting a schedule that will help him complete a career Grand Slam.

Woods faces a different challenge, having not won a major since 2008. He is as methodical as any player when it comes to planning and preparation. As usual, his main objective is to peak for the major championships, starting in April at the Masters.

For much of his career, Woods peaked for the majors better than anyone else ever had. But nearly 38 years old, with two children, Woods has more to think about when planning his schedule than ever before. It will be interesting to see if he sticks to his usual schedule moving forward, or if he cuts back on tournaments as the years go by.

My early impression of the new wraparound schedule is positive. There are more opportunities for players, and more opportunities for the PGA TOUR to help grow golf around the world.

However, giving players more choices also gives them more decisions to make, on where to play, and how often to play. Good luck with the schedule making, guys. And enjoy those frequent flier miles.

Clifton Brown is a freelance columnist for PGATOUR.COM. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR.