What if I told you the new PGA Tour season begins in the second week of October?
“That’s stupid, didn’t the golf season just end?”
“That’s stupid, but are Tiger and Phil playing?”
The answers to your queries are no one, yes and no – and it’s very, very stupid. For reasons beyond me and that only make sense in the twisted mind of PGA Tour chief Tim Finchem, the 2014-15 PGA Tour season begins with the Frys.com Open in Scottsdale.
The Frys.com Open has an illustrious history, with past winners including household names such as Jonas Blixt, Bryce Molder and the immortal Troy Matterson. Wait, wait, no. This is all wrong. I must have Googled something incorrectly. There is no way the PGA Tour season is starting…
Nope, I was right. The PGA Tour season is beginning just three weeks after the last one ended. Would you even call that an offseason?
Several years ago, in a move that zero golf fans were clamoring for, the PGA Tour completely changed its schedule. Like most of the drastic moves the Tour has made in the past decade, it has gone over with the same reverence one holds for a fart in church.
It all stems from the PGA Tour’s concern that people stopped paying attention to golf after the final major of the season, the always fantastic PGA Championship. I will spoil the ending – the vast majority of sports fan still ignore golf after that tournament concludes.
For years, the PGA season ended proper with the Tour Championship in early November, some two months after the PGA Championship. Many top players essentially took the fall off, playing only a couple of tournaments, before showing up to the Tour Championship. If they showed up at all, as Tiger and Phil – the Tour’s biggest draws by several Rory McIlroy tee shots – skipped the event at times.
To fix that problem, the Tour made a new one by instituting the FedEx Cup, to wrap up the season in mid-September, carrying the momentum from the PGA Championship and hoping to snag some attention before football season took hold. That didn’t work. But it is still better than the old system, if barely.
The problem – or the problem the Tour saw – was that its “Fall Series” of tournaments were turned into minor league events, featuring guys struggling to keep their Tour cards for the following year. The Tour was still on a calendar year season and, for golf nerds, the Fall Series was incredible. I put that in italics because it must be said. Guys fighting for their livelihood was riveting television if you loved golf.
The PGA Tour, obviously, does not care about people that love golf. They make money from people who merely like golf. The golf-likers were not watching the Fall Series that the golf-lovers enjoyed. So they blew it up.
What we have now is the monstrosity of a 12-month PGA Tour wrap-around schedule that begins in October and ends in September. With the exception of silly season – the made for TV events in December – there is no break for the PGA Tour.
How stupid is this idea? Well, it has accomplished zero of the goals the PGA Tour wants and has added only headaches.
Because the season needs to start in October, they smash a whole bunch of tournaments in August and September, forcing guys to play 7 or 8 weeks in a row. I can hear you cracking, “But it’s golf.” And it is. But it’s still taxing to play two months straight in big tournaments, not even including the Ryder Cup.
Secondly, the top players are still avoiding the fall tournaments like the plague, which means TV viewers are still avoiding the fall tournaments like the plague. Look at this player field and pick out the stars. Good luck.
The worst part is the complete and total lack of fanfare when the new season starts. I happened to be going through my Comcast guide for Thursday – curious about potential Game 5s in baseball – when I saw PGA Tour Golf listed. My first thought was, “No, that can’t be right.”
Think about the other sports – literally, every single one – and the anticipation built up before the first games. College basketball fans are so starved, they have made a spectacle out of the first practice! By the time the NFL season rolls around, football fans are practically (literally?) foaming from the mouth.
Golf fans? They haven’t even had time to digest the Ryder Cup before the new season starts, if only briefly to take its usual December break.
And here’s where I mention the really stupid part – there is more interesting golf being played elsewhere in the world during the fall. The European Tour still operates on a calendar year schedule, so its version of the FedEx Cup, the Race to Dubai, wraps up the week before Thanksgiving. There is a WGC event in China in early November. And Australia pops in with its biggest tournaments of the year.
So to recap, the PGA Tour willingly starts it season behind football, baseball and NASCAR in the States while trailing behind other golf worldwide. To pour salt on the wounds, the PGA used to be the only American sport to operate on a calendar year schedule, which meant it could actually generate interest in January as football finally winds down.
Instead, its season starts this week. I won’t be watching. Odds are, you won’t be either.
Follow me on Twitter