12 August, China-Top players hail decision to move PGA Championship to May
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland putts during a practice round prior to the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina on Tuesday. Photo: CFP
Top-ranked Dustin Johnson and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy applaud moving the PGA Championship to May, but their hopes for a golf off-season aren’t likely to be realized anytime soon.
That was the upshot from Tuesday’s PGA of America announcement that the tournament, the 99th edition of which opened Thursday at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina would shift to May starting in 2019 at Bethpage Black on Long Island, New York.
“It’s great for the golf schedule,” McIlroy said. “A May date for the PGA of America is a really good thing just from a player’s perspective.
“I’ve been a big supporter of it from the first time I heard about it and the announcement today I think has been very well received by a lot of the players in the locker room.”
The schedule features one big event a month from the players in March as a tuneup for the Masters in April, with the PGA now in mid-May, the US Open in mid-June and the British Open in mid-July ahead of the US PGA playoffs and a Ryder or Presidents Cup.
“Obviously it’s still a couple years away, but I’m excited to play a schedule like that going forward,” McIlroy said. “It just has a better flow to it.”
August-September schedule overload had been an issue since the US PGA Tour playoffs began.
“I actually like the changes they are going to make,” Johnson said. “It’s going to kind of space everything out a little bit more instead of it all being kind of crammed together. So it gives you a little bit more time to prepare.”
Players want an off-season
Players said they would enjoy having a golf off-season, allowing down time for them to rest and time to whet the appetite of golf fans between campaigns.
“I’ve always thought that an off-season in golf would be good,” McIlroy said. “Not just for the players to get a little bit of rest and work on their games and whatever, but just from a fan perspective. Create a little bit of hype before the season starts again. So I’d be a big advocate for an off-season, if we ever had one.”
Johnson wouldn’t mind the chance to let his body recover from the grind of a season.
“You need to give your body a rest,” he said. “Every sport has to have time off to prepare for the next year, training a little bit and trying to get stronger. Now there are tournaments every single week.”
Both players cited the NFL, the world’s richest team-sports league, for having basically four months of regular-season matches and six months off.
“They play 16, 18 weeks a year, whatever it is, but for the other 30-odd weeks, everyone’s still talking about it, talking about what’s going to happen next season,” McIlroy said. “The anticipation, the hype, builds.”
As Johnson said of the NFL, “I know I can’t wait until it comes back and I’m definitely not the only person.”
Add 2016 PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker to the off-season supporters.
“An off-season does sound nice. I’m not going to lie. A couple months off would be great,” he said. “It sounds awesome. Get your body back in shape, get your head right, just relax. But anymore, it’s just run-and-gun all the time.”
No off-season, says Monahan
But US PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan squelched any notion of golf going dark, citing the 46 US tour events plus others on tours worldwide with different timetables.
“At this point, I don’t see that,” Monahan said of an off-season. “There are 46 events and a lot of players will say you’re playing 25 weeks and that’s 21 weeks you have off. That’s five months of free time.”
US PGA seasons now open in October just after the Tour Championship ends the prior campaign, and Monahan doesn’t see any drop in tournaments.
“When you look at 46 events over the course of the season right now, I don’t expect that to change,” he said. “That works very well for our product, and candidly as a true international sport, being on all the time and showcasing the world’s best players over that period of time, we think, is very helpful.”