Jack Nicklaus: Won't block possible drastic PGA Tour schedule changes

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Jack Nicklaus said he would not stand in the way of a proposed drastic change to the PGA Tour schedule that would see the PGA Championship move to May, thus possibly impacting his annual Memorial Tournament.

Nicklaus said he met with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on Tuesday to discuss the matter, suggesting that such a change could help his tournament as well as the game.

And then he threw in the possibility of holding the PGA Championship at Muirfield Village.

"We're willing and more than happy to try to help and work with that, which is what I told Jay earlier,'' Nicklaus said during a news conference in advance of this week's Memorial Tournament. "My feeling is wherever we can help, we'll try to be part of it."

The scenario would play out like this:

The PGA Tour moves its flagship event, the Players Championship, from its early May date to March, where it was played through 2006. The PGA Championship -- which for almost all of its existence, dating to 1916, has been the last major championship on the schedule -- would move into the Players date in May.

That would make The Open the last major championship and would clear the way for the PGA Tour to conclude its season earlier by moving its FedEx Cup playoff series, with the idea of finishing by Labor Day.

"To do that, [Monahan] has many moving parts,'' Nicklaus said. "But he wanted us to know he wasn't going to slight us in any way, he wants to encourage us and promote us.''

Nicklaus, 77, founded the tournament that has been played at the Muirfield course he designed every year since 1976. He named it in honor of Muirfield in Scotland, where in 1966 he won the first of his three Opens. The course has been home to 41 straight Memorial Tournaments, and has also hosted a Ryder Cup (1987), a Solheim Cup (1998) and the Presidents Cup (2013).

A PGA Championship would be its first major championship.

"Whatever is best for the game of golf and however it works, I'm more than happy to talk about it and try to do it,'' Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus said he met with PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua about the subject a few months ago: "I said, 'Pete, if we can be of any help to you, we'd certainly consider doing it.'"

The majors have been played in their current order (Masters, U.S. Open, Open and PGA Championship) all but once in the last 65 years. In 1971, Nicklaus won the PGA played in February. Seven other times since the PGA's inception in 1916 it has been played in May or June, but not since 1952.

Bevacqua has said the organization is considering all of its options, and that while it wants to do what is best for the game, it also has "to do what is right for the PGA Championship.''

A decision on that move is expected later this year, perhaps as early as late August, which European Tour CEO Keith Pelley suggested last week.

Three weeks ago, the PGA Tour announced a 10-year extension of its agreement with FedEx to sponsor a season-long points race that culminates with the FedEx Cup playoffs and a $10 million bonus going to the winner. The bonus pool consists of $35 million, with the possibility that number is going to grow during the new contract, Monahan said.

Although it is unclear if there is any contractual language in the deal necessitating an earlier finish to the season, Nicklaus got to the heart of the matter.

"From the tour standpoint, the ratings for the Tour Championship [the last tournament] have been dismal, right?" Nicklaus said. "They have been dismal. It's their largest purse, the $10 million or whatever bonus prize, and I think they want it to mean more. To compete against college and pro football, it's very difficult to do. And they felt like they were getting lost.''

Nicklaus noted it is not a simple solution. Other tournaments would have to move. But it wouldn't hurt the majors, he said.

"It would bring the majors a little closer together,'' he said. "April [Masters], May [PGA], June [U.S. Open] and July [The Open]. I think that's good, too.''