The biggest shake up ever in the world golf calendar is about to happen and I think, in many ways, it will be good for golf in Ireland but might not be as good for the European Tour.
In early August in Charlotte, North Carolina the PGA of America and the PGA Tour announced that from 2019 the PGA Championship would be played in May instead of August. The Players Championship is to move back to March instead of May (a date it has occupied since 2007).
The reason for the move was explained as since golf is back in the Olympics the PGA Championship would have to move to make way for the Olympics every 4 years. Which means that when The Open Championship is played in July it will be the final Major of the year.
From a fans perspective this may increase the hype some years when a player may have to win The Open to win the Grand Slam – not that The Open needs any more hype, but I don’t see the benefit to finishing the Majors in July when there is still so much of the season left to play.
So, from 2019, the world’s best players will play The Players Championship in March (I appreciate this isn’t a Major but it is one of the big events on the calendar), The Masters in April, The PGA Championship in May, The US Open in June and The Open in July. This frees up the remaining part of the year for the Olympics every 4 years, the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup every two years but more importantly the Fed Ex Cup can be done and dusted before the start of the NFL season in America in early September.
Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. You see, the PGA Tour are losing a bit of a ratings war with the NFL in America. As soon as the football season starts the golf coverage doesn’t matter. This is not good when the PGA Tour rely heavily on income from advertising and selling TV rights. So the PGA Tour have backed down and moved their season end Fed Ex Cup.
This all sounds rather cozy but what would you think if you were running the European Tour? I would like to know how much communication went on between them and the PGA Tour before the announcement? Also, did the PGA Tour consider the European Tour flagship event, the PGA Championship, normally played in Wentworth in late May? This event now has to move to September more than likely. I would not think that Mr. Pelley was too happy with his counterparts in the USA.
When you factor in the four World Golf Championship events, the European Tour is losing even more ground and fast becoming a third rate, also ran, tour.
However, every cloud….and what is not good for the European Tour is really good news for the game in Ireland. Most Irish golf fans watch more golf from the USA than they do from Europe as the best players are playing on the PGA Tour so we’ll see even more now. Clearly the PGA Tour is where the money and world ranking points are so why would a top player play on the European Tour other than to qualify for the Ryder Cup team?
The PGA Tour is the most watched golf tour in Ireland. The time that the PGA Tour is shown on TV is much more suitable to viewing as evening times are easier to watch than during the day.
With the Players Championship, the unofficial 5th Major, moving back to March the increased profile around golf early in the year will hopefully encourage more hibernating golfers back to golf earlier which will hopefully extend our season.
For my money, anything that increases the hype around golf is a good thing. Towards the end of the playing season everyone who is going to play the game is already playing and not too many Irish golfers start their season in August!
So, what is good for golf in Ireland is definitely not good for the European Tour. They are facing some major challenges to keep the best players wanting to play in Europe.