1. Global expansion
The PGA Tour’s announcement this week that it will add a third official event next year in Asia offers some interesting possibilities, some of which will have to be dealt with quickly, while others can at least be dreamed about.
The CJ Cup in South Korea will be staged starting in 2017 in late October between the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and the WGC-HSBC Champions in China. PGA Tour deputy commissioner Jay Monahan — who will succeed Tim Finchem as commissioner sometime next year — was on hand to announce a 10-year deal with the CJ Group, adding to the tour’s footprint in Asia.
Much like the CIMB Classic — which began in 2010 and was won this past Sunday by Justin Thomas — the final FedEx Cup standings will be used to determine most of the field, with a number of other exemptions to be announced. The purse will be a whopping $9.25 million, outpaced only by majors, the Players Championship and World Golf Championships events.
How this tournament will fit into a crammed fall schedule after the Presidents Cup/Ryder Cup has yet to be announced. As the fall schedule now stands, tournaments go right up until the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, with the PGA Tour then taking a break until January. It is tough to envision the circuit going beyond Thanksgiving (the Hero World Challenge and Franklin Templeton Shootout events are staged in early December, but both are considered unofficial), so something has to give.
The present pre-Thanksgiving schedule consists of the Safeway Open, CIMB Classic, WGC-HSBC (with Sanderson Farms as an opposite event this week), Shriners Hospital for Children’s Open in Las Vegas, the OHL Classic in Cancun, Mexico, and the RSM Classic at Sea Island, Georgia.
Will Las Vegas, OHL or RSM move? Become an opposite event? Those are questions to be resolved in the short term.
2. A Pacific swing
By playing three events in Asia, the PGA Tour opens up the potential for some sort of Pacific swing, a long-term goal that has some viability — although it has not been discussed officially and might be just a dream.
If you go along with the notion that it’s difficult to get any kind of traction domestically for golf at this time of year — and that TV ratings are going to be flat no matter when and where the events are played with all the other sporting options — then why not turn this time of year into an overseas expedition?
Move the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii to the first event of the new season. Then head to Malaysia, South Korea and China. Turn one of the Australian summer events — such as the Australian Open — into a co-sanctioned PGA Tour event. Then conclude with the Sony Open in Hawaii. Six events to start the season, all with prime-time or late-night TV slots in the U.S. Four of the events are no-cut, guaranteed money.
Moving the Hawaiian events out of their traditional January spots is certainly not going to happen easily. But for all the talk about golf going up against football, those weeks might be the worst of all — it is the same time as the NFL’s wild-card and divisional playoff weekends, meaning two games each on Saturday and Sunday.
Why not wait for golf until the weekend of the NFL’s conference championship games, which are both played on Sunday? End the Palm Springs event on Saturday, and you’ve got a start to golf in the new calendar year without so much competition.
3. Easy to say, hard to do
Of course, it’s no big deal to write that this is how it should go down. There are undoubtedly obstacles to all of this, not the least of which is what to do with the fall events so easily discarded here: the Safeway Open, the Shriners Hospital for Children Open, the OHL Classic and the RSM Classic. Perhaps these events can find a spot somewhere else on the schedule, or become opposite events. Maybe the PGA Tour won’t move the Hawaii tournaments, and some of those fall tournaments bookend the Pacific events.
Or maybe the PGA Tour will leave things alone and have an extremely jumbled geographic schedule with widely varying purses to start the new season each year.
4. A different kind of hazard
The PGA Tour noted a scary hazard that emerged during the second round of last week’s CIMB Classic at the TPC Kuala Lumpur, far more scary than any kind of water or sand.
Forget playing through …
We’ll just play somewhere else. 🐍 pic.twitter.com/8gk1iAdNTZ
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 21, 2016
5. Reading the fine print
William McGirt wanted to play this week’s Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi. He had played in the event the past five years, liked it and wanted to support it again. But his victory at the Memorial in June and a strong 2015-16 season meant he qualified for this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions in China. The Sanderson Farms event is opposite the WGC, so Mississippi wasn’t an option for McGirt. Since the inception of the World Golf Championships events in 1999, the PGA Tour has a rule that stipulates an eligible player for a limited-field, no-cut official event is not allowed to participate in an opposite tournament. The basis for the rule is to assure that the special event is supported.
McGirt is not competing in China, but he elected to help out the Sanderson event by playing in the pro-am — which had to be signed off by the tour.
The tour has a similar rule that involves the Web.com Tour. A fully exempt PGA Tour player (those who qualify via the Web.com Tour are not considered fully exempt) is not allowed to compete in a Web.com event the same week.
6. First and last
For some, it is the first WGC event of the new season. For others, it is the last. And for even a few more, it is both. This week’s WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai is the third week of the PGA Tour’s 2016-17 schedule and the first of four WGC events for the season. But for those on the European Tour, it’s the fourth-to-last event on the schedule and the last of four WGCs. Then there are those who play both tours and benefit twice.
Rory McIlroy gets to play his first event of the PGA Tour season while also enhancing his place on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, which starting next week has three events as part of its Final Series to conclude the year. The Turkish Airlines Open is followed by the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa and then the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
7. Short-game success
Padraig Harrington‘s victory at the Portugal Masters was his first on the European Tour since he captured The Open and the PGA Championship in 2008. And he knows why he was successful.
96%scrambling this week.25 chances to get up down around the greens,took 51 shots.2 chip ins and a holed bunker shot pic.twitter.com/VvnGI6LD8i
— Padraig Harrington (@padraig_h) October 23, 2016
8. And the celebration took place at — Five Guys?
My traditional winners meal. Need to win more often. pic.twitter.com/Xt9R6VKf23
— Padraig Harrington (@padraig_h) October 25, 2016
9. New rule to ponder
PGA Tour members have a new rule to deal with this year that requires them to play a tournament they have not played in the last four years. It does not apply to those who competed in or will compete in at least 25 tournaments, nor does it apply to players age 45 and older (Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington, for example) or to life members. And the majors, WGCs, Players and FedEx Cup playoff events also do not count.
This won’t be a big deal for many players, who can simply pick one tournament to play that they didn’t in the last four years. But for those with dual membership on the PGA Tour and European Tour, some scheduling problems could arise because such a stipulation means they might have to find events to play that are not conducive to their travel schedules. Failure to comply can result in a suspension or a hefty fine.