With Jay Monahan taking over for Tim Finchem as the new commissioner of the PGA Tour this year, change is in the air.
One of the most prominent topics of conversation is alterations to the schedule, specifically the potential move of the PGA Championship to a May date and making room for an earlier conclusion the FedEx Cup race and PGA Tour season.
The PGA Championship has long been considered the lesser of the four majors – it’s a major without a true identity. The Masters has the traditions of the Augusta, the U.S. Open has the brutal rough where par is sacred, the British Open has the elements of links courses at the home of golf, and the PGA is really known for being the year’s final major – glory’s last shot.
The little brother complex of the PGA Championship is exemplified by their slogan “This is Major.” Not only did they get rid of one of the best slogans in sports,”Glory’s Last Shot,” but declaring oneself a major when the tournament as been one for nearly 100 years is the manifestation of some insecurities.
All that being said, it has a tremendous history and has been a staple of the PGA Tour for the last century. It is an event that has no place playing second fiddle to the FedEx Cup.
The proposal put forth by the PGA Tour higher-ups would essentially move the PGA to the week of The Players and The Players would return to its former date in March during the heart of the Southern Swing.
The impetus for the move is the FedEx Cup tournaments and the tour’s new agreement with the shipping company that extends their partnership through 2027.
The tour is fighting an uphill battle with the FedEx Cup tournaments going up against the NFL in September. This change would allow the FedEx Cup to finish Labor Day weekend, if not sooner when it would make a bigger splash on the sporting landscape.
This type of drastic change would greatly contribute to the rising prominence of the FedEx Cup, but limit the possible sites for the PGA Championship. Traditional venues like Hazeltine, Whistling Straits, and Oak Hill would be rendered unplayable because of their climates and agronomics so early in the season.
Why the FedEx Cup is the engine fueling this possible change? Is the tour better with a playoff type system to bring closure to its season? Yes, but no event in sports has its prestige artificially enhanced like the FedEx Cup.
If broadcasters and commentators have to continually emphasize the importance of FedEx Cup points, something is missing. Any time a player speaks of the FedEx Cup, it’s forced and they are simply reciting the talking points of the tour’s brass.
Dedicated golf fans understand when a tournament (or series of tournaments) has meaning – The Masters doesn’t explain how big of an event it is, it’s innately understood.
The PGA Tour can throw huge purses at the players and that will attract top fields and add some legitimacy to the FedEx Cup, but no matter what the sport, prestige and meaning is not created out of thin air and sponsorship dollars. It’s earned organically and through time.
Majors move the needle on the PGA Tour. The PGA Championship could make some changes (namely getting rid of TNT’s coverage), but its meaning to players and fans alike blows the FedEx Cup out of the water.
Would the end of the PGA Tour season benefit from having the schedule wrapped up before football season? Yes, but there’s no reason the tour should prioritize the FedEx Cup over the PGA Championship.