US PGA Championships move to May from mid-summer was promoted as is available on best interests of PGA Tour and its players, quite possibly at the cost of Europe
You need not spend much time assessing the intricacies of golf scheduling to feel compassion for those charged with implementing it. Climate, television schedules, clashes with other sports, sponsors demands and player preferences are just some of the elements in an eternally difficult equation. When professional golf takes place in a certain place at a certain time, there is always a strong reason for it. Far more often than not, that outweighs external sniping.
This week has find long-awaited confirmation of something relating to a seismic shift. That it took so long for the US PGA Championships move to May and a Players Championship swap to March to be made public owes everything to the kind of forensic analysis that is necessary before marquee golf events move calendar location.
What does it all entail? For starters, even the fact the PGA of America and PGA Tour announced this in tandem was interesting. Golf is riddled with self-interest at the upper organisational level. On Tuesday these groups attempted to show publicly who would control golfs destiny, quite possibly at the cost of Europe.
It is difficult to argue with a switch that entails the Players, Masters, US PGA, US Open and Open Championship will be played in consecutive months starting in 2019. The US PGA has no doubt suffered from the perception it is a poor major relation, rather than an equal part of four. Intriguingly the PGA of Americas chief executive, Pete Bevacqua, asserted on Tuesday that television markets in general are stronger in May.
The games top players are supportive, apparently to a human. And yet the initial motivation to change the schedule came from an external source. Golfs return to the Olympic Games in 2016 led to a cluttered mess where the Open in effect ran into the US PGA, with the lucrative FedEx Cup playoffs far too close to the conclusion of the competition in Rio. When a Ryder Cup was factored in too, the sport including blue-chip participants clearly lacked breathing space.
Its in the best interests of the championship, said Bevacqua. We feel its in the best interests of the players who play in the PGA Tour, the[ US] PGA Championship, around the world, and maybe most importantly for our organisation, it constructs the most sense to our members.
Such a large percentage of our members start and are active in their golf season in May and for an organisation whose strategic mission is to grow this game, we feel May is a far more powerful date for us to contest our major championship.
There remain some unknowns. March currently has two World Golf Championships and the same number of high-profile tournaments in Florida, which cannot all survive with the Players soon to be factored in. Something has to give.
Nothing of this scale arrives without a negative consequence. The European Tour was impressively quick to confirm its BMW PGA Championship will move to September from 2019, owing to a sudden clash with what will now become the second major of the year. In its new position there is a danger of the Wentworth event which has been beset by bad publicity in recent times becoming an autumn afterthought. The European Tour once heralded it as a flagship event.
Even more troublesome for the European Tour is this tournament for now being the first in the recently launched Rolex Series. It was already a stretch to start this storyline in May. Without further significant moves the Rolex Series would not begin until France in early July. It will soon be held together by string, a matter which impacts on the Ryder Cup given improved qualifying status as bestowed on Rolex Series competitions.
Whereas events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai at the onset of each year would seem to mark natural Rolex Series openings, this seems impossible for completely different reasons. HSBCs backing of Abu Dhabi has meant investment in lofty appearance fees to guarantee the worlds best players, rather than similarly in a award money. Rolex Series tournaments have a minimum purse of$ 7m. Dubais long-standing tour stop is sponsored by a rival watch brand, Omega.
Significant changes to the global golfing calendar have given us the opportunity to move the BMW PGA Championship to a more favourable date from 2019 onwards, said Keith Pelley, the European Tours chief executive. The reality is Pelley had by far the weakest hand in this negotiation. As the poor relation of global golf, the European Tour had to make alternative plansafter being informed of movement in the United States. Neither the PGA of America nor the PGA Tour cares about any negative repercussion of their actions in Europe. Both bodies might even want it.
This in many respects highlightings why one body controlling top-level golf would stimulate perfect sense. For now people on either side of the Atlantic are in constant combat to attract and retain the best players; a joust from which there can only be one win on basic grounds of finance.
There may be further adjustment. There is now scope for the Ryder Cup to be played earlier than has recently been the case. Spectators would be forgiven, though, for refusing to get excited considering what week in September the 2024 session of Europe and the United States may take place in.
What is certain is that the golfing scenery will be very different by then. This is the reason date switches, on face value a dull topic, attract such deep attention.
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