How’s this for irony: The BellSouth Classic, which has struggled so direly with cold and wet weather in its late March-early April date, got a sendoff filled with sunshine and 70-degree temperatures last week.
After fighting to secure the date the week before the Masters eight years ago, the BellSouth Classic now looks toward a future that features a new date in mid-May.
Last week marked only the second time in eight years tournament officials were able to make the 36-hole cut on Friday. So in order to compete in a streamlined Tour schedule in 2007, and to deliver its title sponsor better weather to entertain clients, the BellSouth folks dialed up a new date.
“I know there are players that would like to us to stay in the state (before the Masters), in this date, but our sponsors are basically not able to entertain,” said BellSouth tournament director Dave Kaplan.
Being stationed the week before the Masters can have its advantages, especially with the ability to attract a strong foreign field. But inconsistent weather can have a price, too. Last year, the BellSouth had a Monday finish as a result of snow on Saturday. This year, 13 players withdrew before the start of the event.
Adding to next year’s challenge will be the strength of events surrounding the BellSouth. May 2007 will have the Wachovia Championship, Players Championship and EDS Byron Nelson preceding BellSouth. Colonial, the Memorial and U.S. Open follow soon after.
“It might be tough next year,” said Atlanta resident Stewart Cink, “but once players come and they see how nice it is, they feel the warm weather and word gets around out on Tour, I think the field will come back.”
– Alex Miceli