PGA Championship move shifts golf's landscape

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, right, and PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua, left, announced Tuesday that the PGA is moving its signature event, the PGA Championship, to May. Erik S. Lesser/EPA

CHARLOTTE -- Long a game of tradition, golf will undergo a huge change in two years, when the order of the four major championships is juggled due to the PGA's switch to May.

But it isn't a big move for only the majors. It is a big move for the professional game itself, which will see significant transformation in the aftermath of the PGA of America's decision, along with the concurrent change by the PGA Tour to switch the Players Championship to March.

"I've been a big supporter of it from the first time I heard about it, and the announcement today, I think, has been very well-received by a lot of the players in the locker room,'' Rory McIlroy said.

Phil Mickelson described it as "great for professional golf and really good for the PGA, too, to move up earlier in the majors. And we get the FedEx Cup playoffs earlier.''

With numerous questions still to be answered, here is what it means for the various entities.

The PGA Championship

Every year since 1972, the PGA has been last on the schedule of majors. That will change when it goes to Bethpage Black in May 2019, falling between the Masters and the U.S. Open. That gives the golf calendar a major per month, with the Players setting the stage a few weeks prior to the Masters.

Among the long-feared negatives of such a move by the PGA is the lack of northern venues due to weather and agronomical concerns. But PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua said that none of the signed venues -- including Bethpage, Trump Bedminster and Oak Hill -- had an issue with the change.

He feels it does not preclude other such venues from hosting the championship and does open up the possibility to others.

"We are taking nothing off the table at this time,'' Bevacqua said. "And it opens up more parts of the country. It's more comfortable in the Southeast. It's more comfortable in Florida. It's more comfortable in Texas.''

Bevacqua said the tournament would not be played Mother's Day weekend -- the traditional Players Championship spot -- but rather the third or fourth weekend of May, which means likely three or four weeks prior to the U.S. Open.

The Players Championship

When the tournament relocated to its permanent home at TPC Sawgrass in 1982, it took a date in March usually two to three weeks prior to the Masters and was part of the tour's Florida Swing. That changed in 2007, when it moved to May, with the tour saying then that it would give the game one big event per month while providing a sterner test for the players.

Although there were seemingly no issues with holding the tournament in May, the PGA Tour saw clearing space for the PGA Championship as a way to enhance the back end of its schedule. Commissioner Jay Monahan said changes made to the course over the years will enhance its ability to "deliver the same firm and fast conditions in March that we have been delivering in May, and that's something we are going to hold ourselves accountable to because we want the standard of play to be at the same high level it is now.''

Monahan would not commit to a specific date in March but noted that "having what is a Florida Swing or reverting back to what was a very strong portion of the schedule is something that's potentially appealing to us as we go down the road.''

The FedEx Cup playoffs

Although they don't talk about it much, the PGA Tour and FedEx have been disappointed by television ratings of the playoff events, especially the past two, which are played on the opening weekends of the NFL and college football seasons. By moving the PGA Championship out of August, the tour could now conclude its season by Labor Day weekend and avoid the football overlap.

If this year's schedule were used and the playoff format were reduced from four events to three -- something still undecided -- the playoff events would begin next week, or four weeks following The Open with a conclusion on Labor Day weekend.

The PGA Tour schedule

Several changes will be forthcoming, but none has been announced. To accommodate the Players in March, something has to give with the two World Golf Championship events (Mexico and Match Play) that are now staged then. It appears that Mexico will follow the West Coast swing and serve as a bridge to events in Florida, but that doesn't solve where the Match Play will land.

In May, the Byron Nelson (Dallas) and Colonial (Ft. Worth) have traditionally been played back-to-back weeks. To accommodate what Bevacqua said Tuesday -- no Mother's Day weekend for the PGA, and it won't be the week prior to The Memorial -- likely means the two Texas events will be split up.

Other questions remain. What about the WGC Bridgestone? What about the Canadian Open, which now follows The Open? What about the Wyndham Championship, the last regular-season FedEx Cup event?

"There are a number of dominoes, and there are a number of other decisions we need to make,'' Monahan said.

The European Tour

Their biggest decision has already been made. The European Tour announced Tuesday that its flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, England, will be moved to September. There is talk that another big-money European Tour event will be staged the week prior or after. One large question is how participation might be affected in Ryder Cup years, especially for a U.S.-hosted Ryder Cup.

Olympic Golf

The change is a huge boost to the players who are eligible for the Olympics in 2020 and 2024. Last year, the PGA Championship had to move up two weeks, creating a scheduling bottleneck, but that will no longer be an issue. The Olympics are traditionally played in late July or August. Now that will be after the majors. The PGA Tour might be forced to alter its FedEx Cup schedule in Olympic years, but that would likely be a workable trade-off.

The Ryder Cup

The PGA of America, which also runs the Ryder Cup (along with the European Tour), acknowledged that there might be more flexibility in scheduling, but it does "potentially open up the door to changing the date,'' Bevacqua said.

The PGA Tour's fall schedule

For now, don't expect this to mean a significant break in the schedule. The wraparound schedule now has events played nearly year-round, with a break at Thanksgiving. The thought with finishing the FedEx Cup schedule by Labor Day is that perhaps there will be a month before the new season begins, but perhaps not.

"Going back to the advent of the FedEx Cup [in 2007], the wraparound season has elevated all of our events,'' Monahan said. "When you look at 46 events over the course of the season, right now, I don't expect that to change. I think that works very well for our product, and candidly, as a sport, a true international sport, being on all the time and showcasing the world's best players over that time, we think is very helpful.''