Would a move to May be the best thing for the PGA?

By Rex HoggardJanuary 26, 2017, 7:24 pm

Earlier this month in Maui, incoming PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was asked what the advantages would be if the PGA Championship moved from its current spot on the calendar, August, to May.

Shifting the PGA to an earlier date has become a water cooler topic ever since Monahan introduced the idea of a dramatically remade Tour schedule that ends before Labor Day and features a more condensed major championship season.

It was one of the few items Monahan was asked that he deferred an answer.

“I think that would be a question for Pete [Bevacqua] to answer,” Monahan said.

Bevacqua is the CEO of the PGA of America, which owns and manages the PGA Championship, and he got his chance on Wednesday at the PGA Merchandise Show. Not surprisingly, he pulled from his debate club past.

“I could argue May until I was blue in the face, but if you said argue August, I could argue August until I was blue in the face, those are the conversations we’ve had with our senior staff. We want to do what makes sense for the overall golf calendar, but we have to do what’s best for the PGA Championship,” Bevacqua said.

Bevacqua added that no decision on the future date of the PGA Championship has been made and that the conversation has been ongoing at PGA headquarters for the better part of four years.

The idea first surfaced when the PGA announced in 2014 that the ’20 championship would be played at San Francisco’s Harding Park.

Maybe the fact that then-Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was on hand for that announcement should have been a sign of things to come, but the PGA conceded that having the event at Harding Park would give them flexibility to move the championship around the calendar to avoid a conflict with that year’s Olympic Games in Japan.

Last year’s PGA Championship was played two weeks earlier than normal, in late July, to accommodate golf’s return to the Game’s in Rio, and it wasn’t ideal.

“We’re huge proponents of the Olympics, we believe it’s good for golf, but we also don’t want to see the PGA Championship getting bounced around every four years,” Bevacqua said. “We felt that at Baltusrol [site of the 2016 PGA], it took its toll on the championship.”

But the current conversation is about more than avoiding Olympic scheduling issues every four years. “It would be something we would do for the next 100 years,” Bevacqua said.

A permanent shift to May, along with The Players move back to March, would give the calendar a distinct flow, with “major” events every month from March through July’s Open. It would also give Monahan and the Tour the flexibility to end the season before Labor Day and mitigate head-to-head competition with the NFL and college football.

The Tour would benefit, no doubt, but would it be good for the PGA Championship?

Before the 2016 edition, the PGA had been played in August every year since 1971, when it was held in February at PGA National in South Florida. In the championship’s earliest days it hopscotched around the calendar, with stops in October (1928), November (1927), December (1929). But it has been its place as the anchor of the major championship season that has been the championship’s identity.

Even when the PGA gave up the tag line “Glory’s Last Shot” in 2013 in an odd give-and-take with the Tour, it was the championship’s cleanup spot in the lineup that defined it.

The Masters holds its status as the season’s first major played on the same iconic venue each year, the U.S. Open is always the game’s toughest test and The Open stands as the oldest championship. If the PGA Championship were to move to May what happens to the event’s persona?

A move to May would also likely change where the championship could be played. In 2023, for example, Oak Hill in Pittsford, N.Y., is scheduled to host the event. The average high for May in Pittsford is 66 degrees and the average low is 33 degrees. Not exactly the best conditions for growing grass.

In fact, four of the next seven venues for the PGA are northern stops, from Bellerive in St. Louis next year to Trump National in New Jersey in ’22. A May date could make many historic PGA stops agronomically undesirable.

“When you run a major championship it starts and ends with the quality of the golf course, it starts and ends with the quality of the competition,” Bevacqua said.

Bevacqua explained it’s not a single factor that could see the PGA move to a new spot on the calendar, but instead a collection of data points – from golf course availability to how a May vs. August date could impact TV viewing.

“What would it mean to the quality of the broadcast, what would be a more powerful timeframe to broadcast the PGA?” Bevacqua asked hypothetically.

Despite some media reports to the contrary, Bevacqua stressed that any potential change is far from assured at this point, before the old debate team captain diverted his approach to a vague middle ground which would indicate the PGA’s current thinking.

“The great news is we’re in a good spot,” Bevacqua said. “We don’t have to do anything, we can leave it in August, we can move to May.”

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.