Time to move the PGA Championship to May

By John FeinsteinAugust 2, 2016, 10:00 pm

Four years ago, the final round of the PGA Championship was played in threesomes, with players going off two tees after a thunderstorm pushed the conclusion of the third round at Kiawah Island to Sunday morning.

Two years ago, the championship ended in pitch dark, with Rory McIlroy all but hitting into Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson on the 18th green at Valhalla in order to get his final putt into the hole before midnight.

A year ago, a violent summer storm at Whistling Straits on Friday afternoon destroyed a scoreboard near the first tee and pushed the completion of the second round to Saturday.

And then there was Baltusrol. After several days of enervating heat and humidity and a brief rain delay Friday, all of Saturday afternoon was wiped out by storms. The only way for the championship to finish before nightfall on Sunday was to re-start at 7 a.m.; schedule the last 10 players in the field to play 36 holes; not re-pair for the final round and allow lift, clean and place in the fourth round because the golf course was so saturated.

This is a major championship?

Kerry Haigh, the man who had to make all those decisions on behalf of the PGA of America, summed it up pretty well on Saturday: “This time of year, the possibility of thunderstorms exists just about every day.”


Which is why it is time to move the date of the PGA Championship once and for all. It should be played in May, when it is warm enough to go almost anywhere you want in the U.S. without dealing with summer storms and brutal heat on an almost daily basis. It would be good for the PGA, good for golf and would have the collateral benefit of taking care of the Olympic scheduling problem that has been such a nightmare this year when the next Games come around in Tokyo in 2020.

It would not be difficult to do but it will take a collective putting aside of egos by the men who run the PGA of America and the PGA Tour. That won’t be easy.

Now, though, is the time to do it. With Jay Monahan expected to take over as the Tour’s commissioner from Tim Finchem in January, this is a chance for him to show right out of the gate that – unlike Major League Baseball’s Rob Manfred – he isn’t going to insist on keeping the status quo just because it’s easier to not make changes.

Monahan and PGA CEO Pete Bevacqua need to sit down and talk about changing the dates for the event that is most important to each: Monahan needs to move The Players Championship back to March and Bevacqua needs to move the PGA to May.

Here’s why:

The tour moved The Players to May for several reasons. One was the hope that the golf course would be in better condition in May than in March. There was also the fact that the event always had to compete with the NCAA basketball tournament on TV and for media attention. And, there was the gnawing notion that the tournament came off looking like a lucrative warm-up for the Masters.

The golf course has remained a headache in the 10 years since the date-change – so much so that Finchem has publicly said, on multiple occasions, that moving back to March is a possibility. Even now, TPC Sawgrass is undergoing yet another renovation.

Bad weather – wind and rain – is more likely in Florida in March, but so is good weather – seasonable, comfortable temperatures. What’s more, the NCAA tournament TV issue is gone. The geniuses who run the event having moved virtually all their games on the regional weekend to evening starts. There would be very little, perhaps no conflict at all. As for media coverage: it will be the same in May as in March; the number of people who cover both golf and basketball regularly can be counted on both hands.

Then there’s the image issue. Several years before the date change, Greg Norman, the 1994 champion, was withdrew from The Players with an injury. He put out a statement expressing his disappointment saying, “The Players has always been a wonderful warm-up for me prior to the Masters.”

You could almost hear the screams of pain coming out of Ponte Vedra.

That shouldn’t worry Monahan. For one thing, The Players has established its niche as the most important non-major tournament in the world – regardless of date. Plus, if it was played three weeks prior to the Masters, rather than two as in the past, the separation would be the same as between the U.S. Open and The Open and between The Open and the PGA – in normal years. Moving the new WGC event in Mexico back a couple of weeks shouldn’t be an issue.

It’s also worth noting that, since the move, the newly-minted Masters champion has traditionally been a non-factor at TPC Sawgrass. None has finished in the top 10; the best finish for any of them was Angel Cabrera’s T-14 in 2009 and the last two, Jordan Spieth and Danny Willett, have both missed the cut. Neither Willett nor Spieth played this year between the Masters and The Players, eschewing any warm-up at all for the Tour’s biggest event.

Moving The Players back to March would leave an opening on the schedule for the PGA in May. It makes far more sense for the rhythms of the golf schedule to have one major a month beginning with the Masters in April. This would do that. Masters, PGA, U.S. Open and The Open. It would also boost the PGA to come in May rather than late in the summer when the heat is at its worst and many players are exhausted. And, it would allow top players a real break between the final major and the start of the playoffs.

Thirty-five years ago, the PGA was played in February, a move to get to the front of the majors calendar when people in snowbound areas were dying for golf. Jack Nicklaus won at PGA National, with Gary Player second. You can’t do much better than that. The problem was that the February date severely limited the golf courses where the championship could be played.

That’s not a problem in May. Next year’s championship is in Charlotte – a place where the May weather for the Tour’s annual event there is usually close to ideal. That won’t be the case in August. Bellerive is next up in 2018. Ever been to St. Louis in August?

And here’s the extra benefit: In 2020, the Olympics are scheduled to begin July 24th. Whether the men play the first week – beginning July 30th – or the second – beginning August 6th – hasn’t been decided yet. If you put the men second and The Open ends on July 19th, there is a two-week gap between the season’s final major and the Olympics. There’s no need to change or squeeze the majors schedule.

If the PGA is still scheduled for the summer, where do you put it? Right on top of The Open again with no gap between it and the Olympics? Hardly ideal. Play the PGA in May and everyone’s happy.

It is always difficult for men who wear expensive suits to admit that major changes should be made to what has been their routine. This, though, makes absolute sense for everyone. Monahan and Bevacqua are both paid a lot of money. 

This is their time to earn it.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.