The most telling test of golf’s new-look calendar will come with the US PGA Championship’s new mid-May date. Of all the tweaks and shuffles to the global golf schedule, the move in the line-up of what has long been viewed as the game’s weakest Major is the most significant.
The overall thinking was to stack golf’s biggest events – from an American viewpoint, at least – in a six-month run beginning in March. Starting with the Players Championship and culminating with the FedEx Cup Playoffs (now held entirely in August rather than September to avoid the all-consuming NFL season in North America), now there is a Major or a significant tournament in every month from March to August.
I’m curious about how the obvious calendar imbalance will play out. Granted, it’s not like the other six months are a wasteland of unimportant events, but there’s a distinct prestige bias between the March-to-August half of the year compared to September-to-February.
The challenge for players becomes twofold. Firstly, to peak for the middle part of the year, and secondly, to preserve energy and appropriately plan their tournament schedule during that same period. One player I’ve always admired for his ability to peak for the big events is Justin Rose. The Englishman used to be quiet early in the year but then raise his game for the northern summer. Yet ironically, so far this season Rose was a dominant force from last September until this February (with two wins and five other top-four finishes) but saw his form dip in March and went missing at the Masters when ranked No.1 in the world.
Another factor in all this is: the tournaments in the ‘have not’ part of the calendar will fight harder – wherever they are in the world – to draw elite fields. It’s been an issue on our PGA Tour of Australasia for decades, prompting several opinions on whether a February sequence of tournaments might make more sense than the current November/December focus. It could be a masterstroke for the local circuit, or it might be a case of shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic.
Whether or not you like the emphasis on one half of the year over the other, it’s a disparity that appears to be here to stay. As golf fans, we just have to embrace the new look.