2019 schedule could end before football starts


CHARLOTTE, N.C. – News that the PGA Championship will move from August to May and The Players from May to March beginning in 2019 dominated Tuesday’s headlines, but the bigger takeaway is what these pieces mean to a larger puzzle.

The moves are all part of the most dramatic makeover of the PGA Tour schedule since the introduction of the circuit’s four-event playoff series and are ultimately aimed at being able to end the season before Labor Day, which would keep golf from being engulfed by the vast shadow of professional and college football.

On Tuesday, officials were content to focus only on the date changes for the PGA and Players, and when asked specifics of how this could impact the overall schedule Tour commissioner Jay Monahan admitted this is still very much a work in progress.

“I’d love to be able to [talk about the 2019 schedule], but I don’t know the answer to that question because it’s so fluid,” Monahan said. “When you have the number of tournaments on our schedule and the potential changes that we’re looking at and the different variations, I would need to know exactly where we’d end up in order to answer that.”

Although officials were short on specifics, various sources with knowledge of what the ’19 lineup could look like describe a dramatic assortment of moving parts and potential changes.

Looking at the 2019 calendar, the season would begin in familiar fashion, with two events in Hawaii followed by the traditional West Coast swing. Following the Genesis Open in Los Angeles, the first change will be to move the World Golf Championship in Mexico, which was played during the Florida swing this season, to late February.

“We think that going from the West Coast to Mexico to Florida is the logical place for our schedule. We have work to do on that front,” Monahan said.

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The Florida swing would now include the Honda Classic the first week of March, followed by The Players, Arnold Palmer Invitational and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas. Given the need to condense the schedule, sources said this could mean the Valspar Championship held outside of Tampa, Fla., could be relocated to the fall portion of the schedule.

The date for the ’19 Masters has already been announced, April 4-7, and the rest of the April schedule would remain unchanged depending on what happens at the Wells Fargo Championship, which had to relocate this year because of the PGA Championship being held at Quail Hollow.

Quail Hollow is also scheduled to host the 2021 Presidents Cup and there have been rumors the club wants to be included in the rotation for the BMW Championship, which could put its future as a regular Tour stop in question.

May would be the most significant makeover of the schedule, with the addition of the PGA Championship, May 16-19. This would break up the normal Dallas-Fort Worth swing, with the AT&T Byron Nelson played before the PGA followed by the Dean & DeLuca Invitational after the year’s second major.

June could also see significant changes, with the U.S. Open scheduled for June 13-16 followed by the Travelers Championship and preceded by the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Uncertain is the future of the Quicken Loans National, which is likely in the market for a new sponsor after the deal with Quicken Loans expired this season, and the Greenbrier Classic, which some suggest would move to the fall schedule.

July remains relatively the same, with the John Deere Classic, Open Championship, RBC Canadian Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational; while August would serve as the circuit’s final run with the Wyndham Championship followed by three playoff stops (Northern Trust, BMW Championship and Tour Championship).

Under this scenario the playoff stop in Boston would no longer be on the schedule and the Tour would remove the traditional “bye” week in the playoffs to end the season on Sept. 1 in Atlanta, a week before football season gets underway.

“To culminate with three FedExCup events instead of four, and finish the year before football starts, when there’s nothing else really that we’re competing with,” Phil Mickelson said on Tuesday. “We can finish with a bang and really get some excitement around the FedExCup, and not have an extra week off where you’re requiring five weeks to play four weeks, just go boom, boom, boom.”

Although most players seemed in favor of a condensed schedule with just three playoff events, the Tour would likely need to adjust how many postseason points are doled out to increase the volatility and also adjust how many players advance to each event (currently, the top 125 players on the points list start the postseason, with the top 100 advancing to the second, 70 to the third and 30 to the season finale).

Officials would have the flexibility to tinker with the dates of the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup (which is scheduled to be played in Australia in 2019), which would provide a much-needed week off for top players before the matches, and the wraparound season would begin directly afterward.

“It does open up the door to potentially talk about changing the date, not significantly, but a bit perhaps with the Ryder Cup down the road,” said Pete Bevacqua, the PGA’s CEO.

Given the complexity of the changes to the ’19 schedule it’s no wonder Monahan was reluctant to address any specifics beyond the PGA and Players move, but whatever happens, it will be dramatic.