2019 schedule could end before football starts

By Rex HoggardAugust 8, 2017, 9:20 pm

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.

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Watch: Pieters snaps club ... around his neck

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 1:19 pm

After opening in 3-over 75, Thomas Pieters was in no mood for more poor play on Friday.

Unfortunately for Pieters, he bogeyed two of his first three holes in the second round of the BMW PGA Championship and then didn't like his second shot at the par-5 fourth.

Someone - or some thing - had to pay, and an innocent iron bore the brunt of Pieters' anger.

Pieters made par on the hole, but at 5 over for the tournament, he was five shots off the cut line.

It's not the first time a club has faced Pieters' wrath. 

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Woods would 'love' to see Tour allow shorts

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 12:59 pm

Players on the European Tour are allowed to wear shorts during practices and pro-ams.

The PGA of America permitted players to show some leg while prepping for last year’s PGA Championship.

Tiger Woods would like to see the PGA Tour follow suit.

"I would love it," he said Thursday in a Facebook Live with Bridgestone Golf. "We play in some of the hottest climates on the planet. We usually travel with the sun, and a lot of our events are played in the summer, and then on top of that when we have the winter months here a lot of the guys go down to South Africa and Australia where it's summer down there.

"It would be nice to wear shorts. Even with my little chicken legs, I still would like to wear shorts."

Caddies are currently allowed to wear shorts on Tour, during events.

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Feasting again: McIlroy shoots 65 to lead BMW PGA

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 12:04 pm

Updated at 9:42 a.m. ET

Rory McIlroy made seven birdies and no bogeys on Friday for a 7-under 65 and the second-round lead at the BMW PGA Championship.

After opening in 67, McIlroy was among the early groups out on Day 2 at Wentworth Club. He made three birdies and no bogeys on the par-35 front nine on Friday, and then went on a run after the turn.

McIlroy made four consecutive birdies, beginning at the par-5 12th. That got him to 12 under, overall, and gave him a clear advantage over the field. With two closing par-5s, a very low number was in sight. But, as he did on Day 1, McIlroy finished par-par.

"I've made four pars there [on 17 and 18] when I really should be making at least two birdies, but I played the other par-5s well," McIlroy said. "It all balances itself out."

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

McIlroy has made 14 birdies and two bogeys through two rounds. At 12 under, he has a three-stroke lead over Sam Horsfield.

"The work has paid off, to some degree," McIlroy said of his practice with swing coach Michael Bannon. "I still feel like I'm hitting some loose shots out there. But, for the most part, it's been really good. If I can keep these swing thoughts and keep going in the right direction, hopefully this is the type of golf I'll be able to produce."

This event has been feast or famine for McIlroy. He won here in 2014, but has three missed cuts in his other three starts. This week, however, he’ll be around for the weekend and is in position for his first European Tour victory since the 2016 Irish Open and his second worldwide victory of the year (Arnold Palmer Invitational).

"I have the confidence that I'm playing well and I can go out and try to just replicate what I did the day before," McIlroy said about his weekend approach with the lead. "On the first tee box tomorrow I'll be thinking about what I did today. Trying to just keep the same thoughts, make the same swings. I went a couple better today than I did yesterday. I'm not sure I'll keep that progression going but something similiar tomorrow would be nice."

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."