AKRON, Ohio – As independent contractors, PGA Tour players value the ability to set their own schedules.
Some will play nearly every event, while others will sit out for weeks at a time. It’s a perk of the job, especially among the top-tier players who can map a schedule around the elite tournaments.
Once the calendar flips to August, though, attendance becomes more important.
This week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational marks the start of a hectic finish to the season on the PGA Tour, one that will cause many players to tee it up six of the next seven weeks. It’s a stretch that includes next week’s PGA Championship and all four of the FedEx Cup playoff events, culminating with the Tour Championship.
Adding to the crunch is the fact that the Tour’s two bye weeks – which last year separated the Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship, as well as the Tour Championship and Presidents Cup – will this year fall on either side of the Ryder Cup staged in Scotland.
That means four weeks, four playoff events. Buckle up.
Since the back-loaded nature of the schedule was known months ago, players have had plenty of time to adapt accordingly. As you might imagine, the plans of attack vary among the Tour’s best.
World No. 1 Adam Scott usually plays a light schedule, and this season has teed it up on the PGA Tour just 11 times. He’ll make start No. 12 this week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and plans to play in each of the four playoff events.
“Part of my scheduling, the way I do it, is with the anticipation of playing a very heavy end-of-season schedule, like we’re about to hit,” Scott said Wednesday. “I think I’m pretty fresh, and I should be absolutely fine to push through and play six of the next seven weeks, no problem.
“There’s majors galore, and World Golf Championships, and a FedEx Cup to win. That’s when you want to be feeling good and excited to go out to the golf course.”
Jimmy Walker has topped the FedEx Cup standings for nearly the entire season, thanks in large part to a busy playing schedule – this week marks his 22nd start of the season, nearly double the workload of Scott. Like the Aussie, though, Walker has begun to dial it back in recent weeks to prepare for the taxing events on the horizon.
“I’ve definitely had a little bit of a lighter summer,” said Walker, who has played in just three of nine events since the Crowne Plaza Invitational in May. “Certainly you want to do whatever you can to stay fresh, and use the off days as best you can heading into a big stretch.”
Rickie Fowler has made 20 starts this season. At 22nd in the latest FedEx Cup standings, he plans to skip only the Wyndham Championship in two weeks as he looks to secure one of 30 spots at East Lake, a field he has made only once.
“Four in a row, you can definitely run yourself into the ground by the Tour Championship,” Fowler said. “I plan to make sure there’s a rest day in between each event, use some of the Mondays during the playoffs to kind of relax and recharge a little bit.”
Not every player subscribes to the notion that the upcoming events are mandatory starts. Tiger Woods notably has skipped playoff events before when high in the standings, as has Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard opted out of the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2012, and last year played in all four tournaments only because a skipped event could have jeopardized his ability to meet the minimum start requirements to keep his PGA Tour card.
This time, Garcia’s focus is not on the FedEx Cup that will conclude in Atlanta, but on the Ryder Cup that will be contested in Scotland two weeks later.
“I want to make sure that I feel nice and as fresh as possible for the Ryder Cup,” said Garcia, who plans to skip one playoff event.
“I don’t want to be playing six out of seven weeks going into the Ryder Cup, or six out of eight weeks,” he said. “It’s quite a lot of playing. So we’ll see how it goes.”
Over the next two weeks, the PGA Tour will hand out several trophies and nearly $60 million in prize money. As players strategize about the best way to earn their share of the bounty available, one truth remains: Fans are about to see the game’s best play a ton of golf in a very short period of time.