Schedule Shakedown | Iain Carter

Schedule Shakedown | Iain Carter

It has been a golf season like no other and now, as the leaves start to turn to their autumn hues, it is perhaps time to assess how the new schedule has impacted the sport.

In 2019 there has been a pace to proceedings, a strong narrative was built from the moment Rory McIlroy won the Players Championship back in March. But by the time Shane Lowry won the Open in mid-July the men’s major season was done and dusted.

This made it seem as though golf’s highest profile tournaments had been completed with indecent haste. McIlroy’s Sawgrass success was the perfect tune up for a tumultuous Masters and Tiger Woods’ extraordinary Augusta triumph.

Within a month Brooks Koepka was the US PGA Champion and before we knew it Gary Woodland had the US Open trophy on his mantelpiece. Then came Lowry’s amazing victory at Royal Portrush and we were done for the year.

Yes there were the FedEx Cup playoffs and last month the women’s game yielded a brilliant win for the charismatic Japanese star Hinako Shibuno, but it still seems a long, long wait for the Masters to roll around again next April.

And despite the forthcoming climax of the Race to Dubai, which looks potentially very interesting this year, it is Augusta in April before golf will genuinely lead the sporting agenda.

It is little wonder that McIlroy openly wondered whether the authorities are serving the best interests of the game with such a condensed major season. The Northern Irishman pointed out that the sport spends a long time in the shadows under the current set up.

Make no mistake, the men’s schedule is dictated not by golf but by football and football of the American kind. Golf in the US does not want to be overshadowed by the September start of the NFL season.

This is why the PGA shifted from August to May and why the Players went back to its old March date. This way the PGA Tour could complete its season with the Tour Championship ahead of kick off in the NFL.

The reasoning is that golf, therefore, should get more eyeballs - well American ones, at least. And this is what drives the sport, keeps sponsors on side and helps the PGA Tour build its brand.

But from a global perspective the schedule seems flawed. McIlroy is correct to point out that tennis stays in the limelight longer for having a grand slam schedule that stretches from January’s Australian Open to the US Open in August.

It also benefits from being truly global rather than having three of its majors based in the United States. Again this is something that golf needs to address if it wants to grow globally.

Asia, Australasia and Southern Africa would provide superb major venues if they had a chance. But such notions are a long way off, the vested interests are too entrenched to surrender any of their territory.  

Mind you, taking the Open to Portrush proved how successful new major venues can be - those were magnificent scenes as the Irish crowds revelled in staging golf’s oldest and most prestigious tournament.

When the schedule was first announced I thought it had a good chance of breathing new life into the golfing calendar. The notion of majors coming in quick succession offered the chance of the sport gaining genuine momentum.

To a degree it worked out that way, but the new schedule offers no scope for players to properly prepare for the tournaments that define careers.  

Justin Rose made this point ahead of the Open which he played without any competitive action following his near miss at the previous month’s US Open. He feared burn out if he dod not build in a break after Pebble Beach.

However we are set with the current format for the foreseeable future and players are going to have to get used to the calendar. Scheduling is an art form that takes into account peaking for the big ones.

They will also always want to make the most of earning opportunities. Yes, appearance money is another factor at regular tour events and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Next year is even tougher because the Tokyo Olympics in August come into the picture and there is the small matter of the Ryder Cup a month after that. These are enticing extras to pep the schedule and ensure golf is less overshadowed.  

Yes, this time next year we will be gripped by Europe’s defence of the trophy in the United States. Golf will be back in the headlines with the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits and the schedule will seem a lot more sensible than it does at the moment.

So while it is valuable to assess the current set up, perhaps we should be ready to reserve judgement for another twelve months before deciding whether tweaks are needed to an ever evolving golfing calendar.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.