PGA Tour Hopes For Higher-Profile Finish With New Schedule
The PGA Tour’s main goal with revamping its calendar starting with the '18-19 season was to "streamline its schedule toward a championship crescendo, one that will resonate by the end of August rather than into September," according to Tara Sullivan of the BOSTON GLOBE. The changes bring the "dual benefit of avoiding direct competition with the beginning of the NFL schedule, while also taking advantage of the otherwise doldrum-like sports days of August." Golf "certainly has its peaks in the crowded sports market, but as some of the game’s biggest draws -- Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson -- head into the back nine of their careers, it’s not unwise to look for ways to pump up the television product and exposure." The new schedule is "built with that goal in mind, awarding each month a signature event, all of them building toward the Tour Championship" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/11). PGA Tour Senior VP/Championship Management Julie Tyson said that the Tour "hopes to create a March Madness type vibe around August, with three high-stakes playoff events in three weeks" (Bergen RECORD, 7/11). ESPN.com's Bob Harig wrote with just three playoff events instead of four, it "should be easier to sustain interest while also attracting all of the players" (ESPN.com, 7/10).
BEING A GOOD PARTNER: The AP's Doug Ferguson wrote PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan's "main concern" with the revamped schedule was primary corporate partner FedEx, which in '07 paid $35M in bonus money for a "year-end bonanza aimed at giving the PGA Tour a more defined finish to its season." It was "critical to establish continuity and heritage for the tour to renew its deal, and that meant creating more value -- more attention -- for the FedEx Cup." That was "tough to do in late September in Atlanta" as golf had to "compete with America's most popular sport." Monahan said, "We wanted to finish before football and other sports and own August" (AP, 7/10). GOLFCHANNEL.com's Rex Hoggard wrote throughout the "complicated process" of retooling the schedule, Monahan and his team "never lost focus on the ultimate goal, ending before football season began, and although it wasn’t painless it did turn out to be change with a purpose" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 7/10). MORNINGREAD.com's Jeff Babineau writes a "deserved doff of the cap goes to the Tour just for getting this new scheduling done." With "so many moving parts," Monahan and Co. "had lots of challenges" (MORNINGREAD.com, 7/11).
NOT EVERYONE A WINNER: In Tampa, Mike Sherman notes the Valspar Championship will move to a later date in March '19, meaning the tournament will be played a week after the Players Championship and a week before the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin. For the tournament to attract a strong field, the top players "will have to decide if they want to play at least three straight weeks." Meanwhile, the tournament "no longer will coincide with the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/11). GOLF DIGEST's Joel Beall wrote the Valspar Championship "appears to be the big causality" of the revamped schedule. The tournament has "slowly raised its profile in recent years, transforming from a rank-and-file fall event to a tournament that boasts a handful of marquee attractions." But now "sandwiched between the Players and WGC-Match Play, don't be surprised if big names opt for rest after Sawgrass, especially with the Masters looming in the distance" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 7/10). Golf Channel's Robert Damron said it is "100% reasonable" to be worried about the Valspar event moving forward. Damron: "Every time there's a shift in the schedule, there is a tournament that kind of gets left out in the cold as far as the schedule goes." He noted the Arnold Palmer Invitational will "get a hand full" of top players and The Players has the "strongest field in golf." Damron added "almost everyone is going to play" in the WGC-Match Play, so the Valspar is "left a little bit in the cold" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 7/10).