The PGA Tour schedule and the golf calendar will change in a big way starting in 2019, with changes announced for the dates of the PGA Championship, presented by the PGA of America, and The Players Championship, owned and operated by the PGA Tour.
After more than 45 years in August, dating back to 1972, the PGA Championship is moving to May. The PGA of America and CEO Pete Bevacqua made that change public on Aug. 8, indicating the change starts with the 2019 PGA Championship, set to be played at Bethpage State Park's Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y. from May 16-19.
In conjunction with this move, the PGA Tour is vacating the Mother's Day weekend date for its crown jewel, The Players Championship. After playing their biggest event in May since 2007 in hopes of adding a big event post-Masters and pre-US Open, the PGA Tour feels it can now return to its place before the Masters. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said he feels TPC Sawgrass' Players Stadium Course can be just as firm and fast in March now, with design improvements and better grasses, as they intended for it to play (and it does currently) in May.
With the announcement of these two changes, the European Tour wasted little time in moving its flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in England, from May to September starting in 2019. This move will allow the European Tour to get a better field for its event as the PGA Tour season will have ended and there will be few possible conflicts to give Euro Tour stars much reason to skip a big-money, big OWGR points event.
So, what do these changes mean for the golf schedule in 2019 and beyond?
First, the Ryder Cup could potentially shift dates. In the past, the PGA Championship has been the cutoff to decide Ryder Cup teams in (now) even-numbered years. Now with the PGA Championship in May, that's not plausible. That could mean moving up or moving around Ryder Cups -- particularly in the United States -- to build buzz or suit other potential venues.
Second, the Olympic golf tournament won't be an issue for golf moving forward, at least on the men's side. With the PGA Championship in May and the British Open Championship wrapping up everything in July, there will be several weeks before the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games begin. This will offer a natural flow to a special "fifth" (sixth?) major every four years, beginning in Tokyo.
Third, the PGA Tour schedule has to change substantially just to accommodate these two moves. The WGC-Mexico Championship is slated to move out of March and the Florida Swing into its own place as a leap pad from the West Coast Swing into the Sunshine State in February. With The Players back in March, the Valspar Championship would likely need to move and probably to mid-Spring or in the Fall. With the PGA Championship in May, the Colonial and Byron Nelson will probably not be played in consecutive weeks any longer. The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will probably need a new date, too. The Greenbrier Classic could move to the Fall, with the Quicken Loans National potentially off the schedule altogether (maybe to be replaced by a new even in Minnesota). What happens to the RBC Canadian Open, which is now after the final major of the year? Same question applies to the Wyndham Championship, which currently ends the PGA Tour regular season.
Finally, if all of that can be worked out, the PGA Tour would like to wrap up its playoffs sooner. That could mean cutting the playoffs to three events, ditching Boston perhaps. It could mean keeping all four and needing another open week on the schedule. Either way, the FedEx Cup would ideally be decided on Labor Day weekend.
Change was needed, and it's coming. It's just a matter of how much this first big move will impact the rest of the PGA Tour schedule in 2018-19 and beyond.