Ten things I like about the new PGA TOUR schedule
July 10, 2018
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- The culmination of the season now features three-straight weeks to determine the FedExCup Playoffs in August. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The schedule for the 2018-19 PGA TOUR season has been released. As expected, the changes are dramatic and intriguing. The shifting of tentpole events and a compact finish certainly gives the golf world a fresh look, and no doubt will generate considerable buzz. There’s a lot to like about the changes – and here are my top 10 things.
I like THE PLAYERS Championship’s move to March. There are many reasons (including the one below), but a key one is that the chances of sweltering heat should be diminished. A quick check on weather.com indicates that average temperatures for Ponte Vedra Beach in March are a high of 72/low of 55. Average temps in May are a high of 83/low of 68. May not seem like a huge difference but I welcome the opportunity of wearing a thin sweater on a crisp morning at TPC Sawgrass.
I like that the Florida Swing is intact. By moving THE PLAYERS Championship back to March, that means all four of the Sunshine State’s events are compacted into a nice month-long run, starting with The Honda Classic to open March. There’s just a nice symmetry and rhythm to having the TOUR move from Hawaii, to the West Coast, then to Mexico, then to Florida. Everything seems in harmony.
On the flip side, I like that the two events in North Texas are now split. Having grown up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I always considered it special to have the TOUR in DFW for two consecutive weeks (it’s a bragging thing in Texas, of course), with the tournaments just 30 miles apart. But I sometimes wondered if the second-week event suffered from fan fatigue, or perhaps was merely seen as an extension of the first week … or vice-versa. By having the year’s second major (the PGA Championship) splitting up the tournaments, each of my two hometown events should have its own identity. The AT&T Byron Nelson gets the buildup going into the PGA, and the Charles Schwab Challenge gets to reset the next phase of the schedule.
On the third flip side (is that even geometrically possible?), I like that the other two Texas events are on consecutive weeks. With the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play keeping its place in the second half of March, followed by the Valero Texas Open moving into the slot previously occupied by the Houston Open, there is a new Texas Two-Step on the calendar, those two tournaments just 80 miles apart (Houston is twice as far). Yet there is no danger in either one suffering an identity crisis – a limited-field match play event followed by a full-field precursor to the Masters.
I like the Midwest swing. With the Rocket Mortgage Classic moving to Detroit Golf Club, followed immediately by the new 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities, then the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run, there’s now a three-week stretch for the terrific golf fans in those states (Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois) during a key portion of the FedExCup regular season. It also helps negate Ohio’s loss of the World Golf Championships event at Firestone. Of course, Ohio already has one of the TOUR’s cornerstone events, the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, in early June.
Speaking of Detroit and Minneapolis, I like that the schedule is adding two great musical cities. Motown speaks for itself, and then you add in Prince’s hometown. My fondness for Minneapolis also extends to two criminally underrated bands -- Husker Du, and The Replacements. Throw in TOUR stops in jazzy New Orleans, Elvis’ Memphis, and the Live Music Capital of the World in Austin, and any golf fan can get his music fix properly filled.
I like that the national opens of Canada and the U.S. are now back-to-back. Just works better in my head than having the RBC Canadian Open follow the Open Championship. Plus, I like that 100 years after the first Canadian Open, next season’s event will have its earliest finish in tournament history. The RBC Canadian has been held eight times in June, with the earliest finish coming on June 21, 1959 (a Doug Ford victory by two strokes).
I like the almost frightening step-on-the-gas finish in the regular season. The last three weeks of the schedule include a) the lone overseas major; b) a new-WGC venue in Memphis at the FedEx St. Jude Invitational; and c) the traditional finale to determine the FedExCup Playoffs field. Oh, and throw in two opposite-field events, and you have five tournaments that will have a huge impact on the makeup of the 125 players advancing to the Playoffs. It’s not too dissimilar to this season’s schedule, but the challenge of traveling back from the Open Championship (at Royal Portrush next year) and revving up again so quickly seems a bit more daunting.
Speaking of which, I like that The Open Championship is the final major of the season. It’s certainly not the first time golf’s oldest major has held that position; the last time, in fact, was 1971 when the PGA Championship was played in February, and there were several years before in the first half of the century. It’s actually a bit of a throwback schedule, and yet it provides a fresh approach.
I like the three-tournament FedExCup Playoffs ending in August. It’s nice to have things settled before football starts dominating the fall weekends, and eliminating the off-week will prevent a disruption in momentum. Indeed, the volatility with just three events should turn the Playoffs into a wild ride. While I will miss TPC Boston next season – a visit to New England that time of the year is never bad, and the seafood at the Fresh Catch in nearby Mansfield makes life worth living (ask Angel Cabrera about his four-lobster night) – something had to give. Besides, the Playoffs are expected to be back at TPC Boston the following season, so the lobster bib won’t stay in drydock too long.