CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Will he? Won’t he?
Of the 156 players assembled for this week’s PGA Championship, only one was moving the needle on Monday, and rightfully so.
Jordan Spieth has a chance this week to join the game’s most exclusive club and complete the career Grand Slam, an opportunity made that much more compelling because he staked his claim to the third leg just two weeks ago at Royal Birkdale.
Compelling stuff, right?
Now consider Monday’s news. According to the Associated Press, the PGA of America is poised to announce the long-anticipated move of the PGA Championship from August to May in 2019, a key part of a larger re-structuring of the PGA Tour schedule that will include The Players moving back to March and the playoffs ending around Labor Day to avoid going head-to-head with college and professional football.
A few weeks back, your scribe asked a PGA official if the list of positives outweighed the negatives of moving the association’s flagship event from the anchor position on the Grand Slam docket to the No. 2 slot on the dance card.
The answer was a resounding yes, and Monday’s report would seem to have proven that.
The biggest concern for PGA officials is the championship’s position every four years when golf’s return to the Olympics would force the event to adjust. Golf’s return to the Games may have been universally applauded and supported, but it’s the PGA that had to make the pieces fit together last year when the event moved to July.
That was unacceptable.
Although moving to May will likely mean the PGA will have to focus more on southern venues – given how severe a winter the northeast endures in ’19, a May PGA played at Bethpage Black in New York could be interesting – and the championship could get lost in what promises to be a busy time of year between the Masters and U.S. Open.
The trade off, however, would be new venues, like this week’s stop at Quail Hollow, and a much more compelling flow to the season. But on the big board of pros and cons there is one element that can’t be so easily rationalized.
By moving to May, the PGA is foregoing an identity that stretches back 70 years. Although they don’t call it “Glory’s Last Shot” any longer, there is a cachet to being the year’s final major.
Win this week or wait some seven months for your next Grand Slam shot. It may not be the most nostalgic or logical hook, but it was the PGA’s.
And what of Spieth’s Grand Slam opportunity this week?
Sure, if the PGA was scheduled for next May the world would still fixate on the Golden Child’s golden quest, but it wouldn’t have the same zeal as it does this week, just a fortnight removed from his Open triumph and still riding high on emotion.
Spieth’s story is so compelling this week because the golf world is caught up in the moment, but with the new schedule all of that momentum would be lost to time and indifference as we waited for the PGA.
There are plenty of reasons to celebrate the reported slide to May and by all accounts this move, which has been four years in the making according to the AP report, has been well vetted.
But the old cliché comes to mind – you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. It’s interesting that part of this larger makeover is moving The Players back to March, where it was traditionally played before moving to May in 2007.
The argument for that move was better course conditions at TPC Sawgrass, but that never really materialized, which at least partially explains the Tour’s desire to move back to March.
It’s called unintended consequences, a missed detail that may end up costing the PGA Championship a piece of its identity.