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This is Part 2 of C.A. Schmidt's article on the challenges of the PGA Tour schedule, with his recommended changes. To read Part 1 (proposed schedule October through June), click here.
I know the Greenbrier has paid a lot of money to get the July 4 spot on the schedule -- we moved it to the Q-School qualifying round in November -- but that weekend needs to be celebrated where our founding fathers made their bones: Philadelphia. It's a golf hotbed with rabid fans. We'll take Glen Mills, Cobb's Creek, Wyncote, or if they'd ever allow it, Pine Valley. Now that would draw some eyeballs.
Beyond that, we're moving towards the British Open, and we know the boys want to acclimate themselves to the conditions and time change. So we're moving the John Deere Classic up a week, keeping that cool exemption and private jet they charter for British Open guys, and then having an open week before the Open Championship. Let's build some excitement for a major championship, and maybe highlight the Scottish Open the week before. The Canadian Open the week after is just a wasted week, so we need to push that into August -- so an open week on either side of the Open Championship.
Danger time for the Tour, as NFL pre-season is starting, kids are beginning school, and golf interest is starting to wane. We move the Canadian Open to the first week in August, but we make the format like the World Cup -- countries each get two players (larger countries get up to eight, or four two-man teams) and they play a cumulative score game. The US needs to get better at Ryder Cup-style pairs anyway. The WGC-Bridgestone moves to week 2, but it rotates venues. Bridgestone has a significant presence in Ohio, Tennessee and Michigan, so for argument's sake let's take the event to Crystal Downs in the UP in Michigan. It's a MacKenzie course (see: Augusta National) and promises fantastic weather and ridiculous panoramas along Lake Michigan. We also want to be sure to get some golf at altitude at some point -- think Castle Pines in Denver, or Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis -- and we deserve something like this at least every other year. 420-yard drives off elevated tees? 250-yard 8-irons? Sign me up. (Props to the Tour for taking the BMW Championship to Cherry Hills in Denver this year, by the way… although it's not the 'mountainy' Rockies course I want to see.)
So that's two great events that lead into the PGA Championship the third week in August. Now, we've learned our lesson that August in the South and Midwest is like playing golf in a swimming pool -- it's humid and it storms a lot. So we're moving it to the Pacific Northwest for at least two out of every three years: Bend, Ore., Salish Cliffs, Druids Glen, Chambers Bay (already on the schedule -- woohoo!), Canterwood, Pronghorn, Pumpkin Ridge, you name it. Plenty of worthy tracks. Plus we get a taste of that prime time slot as football starts to retake the weekends.
After that, we have another off week.
The four-week FedEx Cup is generally fine, but let's mix up the courses a little more than we have, especially the Tour Championship. I understand the desire to have a trademark course like East Lake as the official end of the season/championship, but I don't think any fan is too tied to that concept. Make it a different Top 20-type course every year -- Pine Valley, Cypress Point, Shinnecock, Chicago Golf Club, Whistling Straights, etc. -- a championship course for the true champion still gets the message across. This is maybe another spot to look out west for a venue -- Cypress Point in prime time is pretty dang appealing.
But it would also be an interesting twist if, once the playoffs began, every player was seeded 1 to 124 (has to be an even number) and grouped into four teams: Nos. 1 and 124 are on a team, 2 and 123, 3 and 122, 4 and 121… 5/120 are on the No. 1 team, 6/119 on No. 2, 7/118 on No. 3, and the pattern repeats. Everyone still plays the stroke play event in FedEx Cup Playoff Event 1, but at the end of the event everyone on the worst team (cumulative) is eliminated unless they are within 10 strokes of the winning score, FedEx Cup Points-to-date be damned. Then they re-seed and pair up again in FedEx Cup Events 2 and 3, cutting down the team sizes for Event 3. In the Tour Championship, it's the same 30-man, stroke-play format that's currently used. I'm not sure how this would play, but I'm interested in the dynamics of the team concept with $10 million ultimately on the line for one person.
And this is a separate column, but my desire to bring back PGA Tour Q-School also means we need to pare down the guys who automatically qualify for the following year. The Top 100 get their cards again. The Top 12 from the Web.com Tour are in. Then Q-School identifies 12 from each of the three locations (see Part 1). That's 148 players eligible for ALL events (non-WGC events and majors), and the tournaments can decide how many more they can fit into their fields (past champs, sponsor exemptions, etc.). I don't see a reason why every event can't have 160 players -- that's 12 spots for non-exempt players, which is plenty. And this also clarifies the partially exempt guys -- if you're on the Tour, you're eligible to play.
So those are my thoughts on how to make the PGA Tour season more interesting, increase interest, visit new courses, and raise ratings. There would be a lot of work to do with existing events and sponsors, but I honestly think this is better than the current format. I realize it's not realistic to host events at Pine Valley and Cypress Point, and there are a million obstacles in removing venues and getting new courses to Tour specs, but why not try SOMETHING along these lines to push the envelope?
Hit me up on Twitter with your suggestions and comments. My full mock schedule for 2015-16 (I'm a reasonable man, after all -- that's 17 whole months to pull all of this together) is listed below:
Total official Tour events: 32 (down from 45 in 2013-14)
Week 1: No golf
Week 2: PGA Tour Q-School at Ocean Course at Kiawah (Tues-Fri)
Week 3: PGA Tour Q-School at Greenbrier (Tues-Fri)
Week 4: PGA Tour Q-School at PGA West (Tues-Fri)
Week 1: No golf (Bachelor/Big Break show)
Week 2: No golf (Bachelor/Big Break game)
Week 3: No golf (Bachelor/Big Break game)
Week 4: Skins game at Pacific Dunes (two-man teams with own money, $500K apiece, at stake)
Week 1: Australian Open
Week 2: WGC HSBC event in Shanghai
Week 3: No official event, but Tiger hosts his
Week 4: No event (unless it can be played in prime time with big stars)
Week 1: TOC Hyundai at Kapalua
Week 2: Waste Management Phoenix Open
Week 3: Northern Trust at Riviera
Week 4: WGC Match Play at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas
Week 1: AT&T at Pebble Beach
Week 2: Arnold Palmer/Bay Hill
Week 3: WGC at Doral
Week 4: Nissan Championship at Golf Club of TN (Nashville) -- Stabbleford scoring
Week 1: Houston Open (36 holes stroke play, 36 holes match play for Masters/US Open qualifying)
Week 2: The Masters
Week 3: Hilton Head / Harbour Town
Week 4: Off week
Week 1: Memorial
Week 2: PLAYERS Championship
Week 3: Zurich Classic (or Quail Hollow / other course in North Carolina)
Week 4: Byron Nelson
Week 5: Colonial
Week 1: Walgreens Chicago Harbourside Open (36 holes stroke / 36 holes 2-man alt shot)
Week 2: US Open
Week 3: TPC River Highlands
Week 4: Tour Classic at Sand Hills (old-fashioned clubs, balls, attire)
Week 1: July 4 Classic from Pine Valley (Philadelphia; Glen Mills is more likely)
Week 2: John Deere Classic
Week 3: Off week / Scottish Open
Week 4: British Open
Week 5: Off week
Week 1: Canadian Open (modified World Cup of Golf format)
Week 2: WGC Bridgestone from Crystal Downs in Michigan, rotates venues
Week 3: PGA Championship at Druids Glen (at base of Mt. Ranier)
Week 4: Off week
Week 1: Off week
Week 2: FedEx Cup Playoff 1 -- 30-Man Team / Individual Format
Week 3: FedEx Cup Playoff 2 -- 30-Man Team / Individual Format
Week 4: FedEx Cup Playoff 3 -- 20-Man Team / Individual Format
Week 5: FedEx Cup Playoff 4 -- Tour Championship at Cypress Point
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