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Tour schedule: Big changes will lead to tough choices

By Rex HoggardJuly 10, 2018, 12:57 pm

This began as a typical brainstorming session, an opportunity to take a hard look from 30,000 feet at a sprawling business.

“It wasn’t a schedule conversation, it was a product conversation,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan recently explained. “The question was, are we producing the best possible product for our fans? One of the things that we realized is, 11 years in, the FedExCup Playoffs continue to grow. We felt like ending Week 1, Week 2 of the NFL [season], that was a big issue and we needed to solve it.”

That conversation began in early 2016 and the answers to those tough questions were officially given on Tuesday when the Tour unveiled the dramatically overhauled 2018-19 schedule.

From thousands of iterations, competing interests, and moving parts was born a lineup that now features five consecutive months of marquee events starting with The Players in March, the Masters in April (come on, you knew the spring member-member wasn’t going anywhere), PGA Championship in May, U.S. Open in June and Open Championship in July. This major Murderers’ Row will give golf clear ownership of a portion of the sports calendar.



The new schedule will also feature an earlier finish to the season, with the Tour Championship scheduled to be played Aug. 21-25, two weeks before the start of the NFL season, which has always cast a wide shadow over what was supposed to be the Tour’s big finish.

Although it took more than two years to get here, there’s no denying the need and success of what is essentially a condensed schedule. The new dance card will certainly make the Tour better and it will also make golf better, but like most extreme makeovers there has been and will continue to be a cost.

After a dozen years of hearing how much better The Players is in May, transitioning back to March will be awkward at best; and the PGA Championship’s relocation to May could take some of the event’s more storied Northeastern venues out of the rotation.

But if The Players and PGA moves are the highlights of the new schedule, the devil really is in the details.

Gone from the 2019 schedule will be The National, Tiger Woods’ event in Washington, D.C., which began with so much promise in 2007, and the Dell Technologies Championship, which had been the second playoff stop.

Although TPC Boston, site of the Dell Technologies event, will host the first playoff event, The Northern Trust, every other year starting in 2020, it’s still a hit for one of the Tour’s largest markets.

Though many observers liked the idea of a condensed schedule, in practice it’s going to take some getting used to.

Essentially, the Tour had to shed four weeks off the season to move out of football’s shadow. Losing the Boston playoff event and the post-season “bye” week was half the bill. The Houston Open was relocated to the fall portion of the schedule, and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational was replaced by an existing event in Memphis.

If that all sounds clean and easy, consider that the run up to the post-season will now feature a major (The Open), a World Golf Championship (Memphis) and the Wyndham Championship. Including the three playoff stops, that’s five must-play events in a six-week window.

There’s also a question of how the 2020 Olympics, which will be played in Tokyo from July 24 to Aug. 9, will fit into what currently is an already hectic portion of the schedule.

Similarly, the spring line up heading into the Masters will now feature two World Golf Championships and The Players. The game’s stars will likely continue to play either the Honda Classic or Arnold Palmer Invitational, which means five starts in eight weeks.

How this congestion impacts events like Bay Hill or the AT&T Byron Nelson, which will now be played the week before the PGA Championship, remains to be seen, but there will be tough choices made.

Consider the RBC Canadian Open, which has been mired in a post-Open Championship vortex, will now be played the week before the U.S. Open. Depending on where the American championship is played, the move could give the field in Canada a boost, but it’s hard to imagine how it’s going to lead to long-term improvements.

Give Monahan and his team credit, from a thousand different variations and moving parts has come a schedule most of the circuit’s constituents, and eventually the fans, can embrace.

“Let’s look at the overall schedule and the flow and a thousand different versions on how to make it work, along with looking at the overall landscape of sporting events,” said Monahan when he was recently asked to explain the schedule process. “You think about what other leagues might do and you look at their schedule, you’re trying to balance what you know now with what you think others might think about.”

Throughout this complicated process, the commissioner and Co. never lost focus on the ultimate goal, ending before football season began, and although it wasn’t painless it did turn out to be change with a purpose.

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Rose realizes his No. 1 ranking is precarious

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:18 pm

ATLANTA – Asked how he would like to be identified when he was finished playing golf, Justin Rose didn’t hesitate – “major champion, Olympic gold medalist, world No. 1.”

He’s had only a week to enjoy the last accomplishment, but the Englishman is aware of what it means to his career to have finally moved into the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“It's a moment in your career that you always remember and cherish,” said Rose, who overtook Dustin Johnson with his runner-up finish two weeks ago at the BMW Championship.


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Rose said he took some time last weekend with family and friends to relish the accomplishment and will play his first event this week at the Tour Championship as the world’s best, but he also understands how tenuous his position atop the ranking is at the moment.

“I accept it's really tight up top. It could easily switch this week,” he said. “I just feel that if I go to [No.] 2 or 3 this week, if Dustin and Brooks [Koepka] both play well, I have an opportunity the week after and British Masters, and going to China and Turkey, there's going to be opportunities to get back there.”

Johnson, Koepka and Justin Thomas could unseat Rose atop the ranking this week depending on their finishes at the Tour Championship.

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Likely ROY Wise not looking past 'special' East Lake

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:05 pm

ATLANTA – Much like the PGA Tour Player of Year Award, voting for the Rookie of the Year Award is very much a rubber stamp this season.

Brooks Koepka is a lock to win the Jack Nicklaus Trophy after winning two majors - the U.S. Open and PGA Championship - despite missing a portion of the season with an injury. Similarly, Aaron Wise, who won the AT&T Byron Nelson, is the only rookie this year to advance to the Tour Championship, which is normally the threshold players use for voting for Rookie of the Year.

“I knew with the rookie class that we had it was going to be tough, and the players still have to vote but it’s definitely something that was important to me,” he said on Wednesday at East Lake. “My focus is just finishing strong this week and giving them a reason to vote for me.”


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For Wise, who had four top-10 finishes this season and begins the week 21st on the FedExCup point list, the chance to win the award is gratifying, but being among the best 30 players on Tour, and securing his spot in all four major championships next season, is an accomplishment worth savoring.

“To win Rookie of the Year you have to have a solid season, but to make it to East Lake, so many guys don’t get this far. You really have to have a special season and this is really special,” Wise said.

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Stanford returns home to share Evian celebration

By Randall MellSeptember 19, 2018, 5:33 pm

Angela Stanford’s eyes welled with tears when her flight touched down at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in her return from winning the Evian Championship.

When she lands from the south, as she did Monday, she always looks for the towering grain elevators in her Saginaw hometown. She also always looks for downtown Fort Worth’s skyline.

She got teary with the replica of the Evian Championship trophy in her carry-on in the luggage bin above her seat, knowing she wasn’t bringing it home just for her.

But for her mother, Nan, who’s battling a second bout with breast cancer.

For her father, Steve, who got her started in the game.

For other family and friends.

For Shady Oaks, the club Ben Hogan made famous, where she is a member.

And for TCU, her alma mater.

She realized how empty she felt in so many returns from major championships.

She’s 40 now.

She won in her 76th try in a major.

For so long, Stanford believed she had what it took to win a major, but that only made the string of disappointments harder.

“So I remembered what it felt like coming home from so many disappointments, but not this time,” Stanford said. “This time I got to bring something home for everyone to see.”



When Stanford got off the plane, her parents were among a group of family and friends waiting to greet her. So was her TCU coach, Angie Larkin, who brought along the Horned Frogs mascot, Superfrog.

Tour pros Kristy McPherson, Dori Carter, Kendall Dye and Emory University coach and former tour pro Katie Futcher were all in Fort Worth helping Stanford celebrate.

“It was pretty cool,” Stanford said. “Of course, I asked them all if they wanted to see the trophy.”

She pulled it out of her carry-on and never put it back.

“It’s a heavy trophy, but I told them I’m carrying this everywhere,” Stanford said.

There was a celebration dinner with family and friends Monday night, and another celebration with friends on Tuesday.

“I think it’s just the start of many celebrations with more friends to see,” Stanford said.

Stanford went to work with a new swing coach about a year ago, Todd Kolb, from Sioux Falls, S.D. In her flight home, she thought about how grateful she was for all the help poured into her game, not just the good work Kolb is doing, but the foundation important figures in her life helped to lay. She thought about the lessons and wisdom Amy Fox, Mike Wright and Joe Hallett passed along.

“I’m still using things I learned from my first instructor,” Stanford said. “Amy Fox is a huge reason I’m playing on tour. Mike Wright is a huge reason why I’ve won on tour. Joe Hallett helped me navigate through a tough time in my career.

“They were all important to my winning Sunday. They all gave me building blocks, and they’ve all helped lay the foundation to what I’m learning now from Todd.”

Stanford said being able to share her gratefulness made her return home special.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” she said. “It’s been everything you could imagine it would be.”

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Finau plays with 'idol' Tiger, but don't get excited

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 5:05 pm

ATLANTA – This has been a season of firsts for Tony Finau.

He played his first Masters – after severely injuring his ankle, no less – and all four of the World Golf Championship events for the first time. He also made his first Ryder Cup team.

On Tuesday at East Lake there was another first. He played a nine-hole practice round with Tiger Woods.


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“It was pretty special for me because it's the first time I ever played with him in a practice round, tournament, whatever the case may be,” Finau said. “I've been on Tour four years now, and that's the first time I ever had the chance to play with him. Again, my golfing idol. That was a special day for me yesterday to play with him, pick his brain a little bit, and just get to know him a little bit better.”

Woods and Finau played with Bryson DeChambeau, who has become the popular choice to be a potential partner for Woods at next week’s Ryder Cup. Some have speculated that Finau could partner with Phil Mickelson in Paris, but Tuesday’s practice round created the scenario of another rookie possibly playing with Woods. Finau seemed to quickly dismissed that idea.

“I don't see a lot of potential playing with Tiger,” Finau said.