(Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
By Joel Beall
The PGA Tour released its much-hyped schedule for 2019 on Tuesday morning. Since the PGA of America’s announcement last August that the Wanamaker would be moving to May (and the Players returning to March), it’s been a slow burn of reports and speculation, allowing fans to assemble the puzzle piece by piece. Though this subtracted drama from Tuesday’s reveal, there’s still plenty to digest. Here are seven takeaways from the new, revamped PGA Tour schedule.
Balance achieved, save for one issue
Hosting a tentpole event from March to August was a primary aspiration for realignment, strengthening the overall health of its schedule. In that regard, mission accomplished.
It’s not without faults though, the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational’s placement chief among them. The event, which is replacing the Bridgestone Invitational, will be played immediately after the Open Championship. To be fair, there was not much wiggle room, save for slotting one of the new tournaments between Portrush and Memphis or move the latter to late June (more on this in a moment). In that same breath, having a major and WGC in consecutive weeks, particularly after preaching balance, does come off as odd.
The Florida Swing is back
Historically serving as the run-up to the Masters, golf’s stroll through the Sunshine State lost some lustre when the Players moved to Mother’s Day in 2007. The WGC-Mexico Championship subbing in for Doral also threw a wrench into the swing’s cohesiveness. The Players’ return to its March confines constructs a month-long Florida stretch, helping recapture some much-welcomed nostalgia.
The Valspar Championship appears to be the big causality
Despite the myriad of moving parts, the tour, somewhat miraculously, managed to keep most parties happy, or at least satisfied. There is an upshot to this utilitarianism, however, with the Valspar coming out on the business end.
The Innisbrook event 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 (evidenced in Tiger Woods’ near-win this spring). Alas, 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.
Will the stars shine between Pebble and Portrush?
Recently the top dogs have used the interval between the U.S. and British Opens as a summer sabbatical. Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose, the No. 1 and No. 3 players in the world, won’t log an official tournament in the post-Shinnecock/pre-Carnoustie frame, while Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler will make just one appearance. The Travelers Championship has garnered a formidable field the last two years; it will be a hustle to do so next campaign with the U.S. Open on the other side of the country. Likewise, the John Deere Classic has made a marvellous effort to cater to those making the trans-Atlantic trip to the British, yet this year’s tournament features just one player inside the World top-25 (Bryson DeChambeau, who won the event last season).
Trying to solve this riddle will be the 3M Open and Rocket Mortgage Classic, tournaments making their tour debut. Both the Twin Cities (3M) and Detroit (Rocket Mortgage) have passionate golf bases, and Detroit Golf Club is a fine, old-school layout. Still, convincing stars to shun vacations for unproven showcases won’t be easy. A 46-tournament schedule will have its various cadences, but those quiet times should not occur when golf doesn’t have much competition on the sporting calendar.
For the FEC, less is more
The FedEx Cup will be in its 13th year of existence in 2019, and golf’s try at a postseason has quietly become a viable entity. It’s also far from perfect, with its four-tournament length a common complaint. By subtracting the Dell Technologies Championship, the remaining three hold more prestige, to say nothing of extra gravitas. It does present a challenge for players in the FEC 125-90 range to advance from the Northern Trust to BMW Championship (only the top 70 in the FEC standings), but it’s a small price to pay for a boost in vitality.
Can the Texas Open fill Houston’s shoes?
The Houston Open embraced its pre-Masters slot, drastically altering Redstone Golf Club to act as preparation for Augusta National for those competing for the green jacket. The strategy worked, with the tournament annually grabbing performers like Spieth, Rose, Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed.
TPC San Antonio is decidedly not Houston. The course, one that most pros despise, is a polar opposite of Augusta on the set-up spectrum. It’s also not going anywhere, as Valero extended its sponsorship agreement to 2028, specifically aimed with a pre-Masters spot in mind. In one sense, the tournament will get the best players not qualified for Augusta, but if the course fails to take a page out of the Houston playbook, don’t expect a strong field in San Antonio.
The 2020 fall schedule will see a facelift
The autumn portion of the schedule, which marks the beginning of the season, is unchanged. However, the 2019-20 campaign will end a month earlier, and sources tell Golf Digest the fall will undergo a facelift. The ‘19-20 fall schedule will likely feature NBA star Steph Curry’s event, along with the Greenbrier and Houston Open. In its current construction, most stars can skip this portion of the season without much repercussion. But with the fall likely to comprise almost a fourth of the season, don’t be surprised if the big hitters make an appearance or two starting in 2019.