The PGA’s Head-Scratching Scheduling

The Colonial and Ben Hogan have been synonymous for many years. One of the all-time greats, Hogan won the event at the Texas country club five times. He managed a victory even after a debilitating car accident that brought an abrupt end to his golf dominance. In addition to the history between Hogan and this event, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Phil Mickelson are among the huge names that have won this event. It is one of the invitational events on the schedule that has not drawn the ire of regular Tour players because of the lineage of its champions.

The PGA Tour does not seem to have the same reverence for this event, though. Much like what happened to the event at Duluth, the PGA Tour moved the dates for both the event at Colonial and the Byron Nelson Championship. Traditionally, they happened in back-to-back weeks in what was known as the Texas Swing.

This year, that tradition ceased as the Nelson was moved from its traditional placement. As a result, the field for Colonial was negatively impacted, as well. Players that were invited to Colonial would play just down the road at the Nelson and then stay in the area to play the second half of the Texas Swing. In essence, players would make pilgrimage to Texas to pay homage to golfing legends Nelson and Hogan in the same two week span. It was the golfing equivalent of going to Mecca and Medina in the same vacation — just something that you're supposed to do.

The PGA Tour made that feat less likely, though, by breaking apart the Texas Swing. That was bad enough to hurt the field at Colonial. Then Colonial just happened to be scheduled against the European Tour equivalent of the Players Championship. The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in England is the European Tour's crown jewel. It usually presents the best field of the year on the European Tour that is not an event jointly sanctioned by multiple tours.

A large number of players that have moved to the PGA Tour from the European Tour for money and fame see the BMW as an opportunity to go back to their roots and play in a fantastic golf tournament. For them, it's an envoy back home despite what Hemingway might imply about such a trip. That means that the quality stars on the PGA Tour that matured in golf through the Euro Tour — Padraig Harrington, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen, and others — make a jump across the pond and leave Texas in its famous dust.

All of a sudden, the Texas Swing has been dismantled and both events' strength of field has suffered tremendously. Tiger used to appear at the Nelson, but did not this year after the legend's passing. Only one player in the top 10 accepted the invitation to Colonial this year.

As it turns out, Jim Furyk represented the top 10 well by losing in the playoff to Rory Sabbatini. The event had a dramatic finish that did not need top 10 golfers in order to compel the crowds and television audience. It was a fortunate break for Colonial, but one that is not necessarily likely to happen year after year. It is much more likely that the trend will be a negative one for Colonial. As the European Tour continues to grow in depth of strength and the luster of the Nelson fades somewhat, Colonial will feel the effects from both tournaments. In the end, the fans in Texas, Colonial, and the PGA Tour all suffer.

More frustrating, it is a part of a running string of decisions that are negatively impacting several wonderful PGA Tour events. We lost the event in Denver for a variety of reasons, some the fault of the Tour leadership. The Canadian Open lacks a title sponsor and cannot seem to get a hand from the PGA Tour in improving its date to help them in the search. All of the WGC events are now scheduled in the U.S., which completely defeats the purpose and mission of the series. Colonial, the Nelson, and the AT&T Classic are all hurting in field strength because of scheduling that does not seem to consider matching geographies. The Tour's penchant for invitational events is impacting the ability of middle-tier players to secure their Tour cards and become a part of the upper echelon of golf.

This column and another about the Duluth event should be raising questions about the leadership of the Tour. The Tour is making decisions that negatively impact some of their best events. This is happening in the face of growing strength of the European Tour and proclamations from its current and former stars that the other major global tours should align to take on the PGA Tour. It is happening in the midst of a pinch for the Tour in generating new sponsors for Tour events because of a tightening economy and the realization that Tiger Woods is not a staple of the PGA Tour, but rather a special attraction.

In order for the PGA Tour to maintain its status and dominance as the world's best tour, it should be making decisions that prop up events with a long-standing record of field strength, local support, and sponsor commitment. That does not seem to be happening right now considering what we have seen in recent months coming out of Ponte Vedra Beach. Is it because of ignorance, arrogance, or some combination thereof? Are there factors that the average observer just cannot see that is the impetus for these head-scratching decisions?

What golf fans need is an answer. The PGA Tour should explain why it is doing what it is to hurt its loyal events, fans, and itself. Otherwise, fans will continue to become frustrated, the media will continue to raise questions, and the other world tours will keep catching up to the PGA Tour. All of those things make a combination the Tour simply cannot afford.

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