Shackelford: New PGA Tour schedule tightens season, leaves questions

Stephen Lew/USA TODAY Sports

Shackelford: New PGA Tour schedule tightens season, leaves questions

PGA Tour

Shackelford: New PGA Tour schedule tightens season, leaves questions

If you’re the PGA Tour, beware of dragons. And SEC football.

That’s one of several surprising conclusions from the PGA Tour’s new schedule release.

Long thought to have a natural ending spot on Labor Day Monday for the Tour Championship, the Tour is bypassing Atlanta that weekend, opting to finish the season one week before, Aug. 19-25, 2019.

This can almost certainly be blamed on the odd confluence of DragonCon and an SEC kickoff game during Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, along with the PGA Tour’s desire to get out of football’s way. Even though college football, where the opening-weekend matchups made years in advance can vary in quality, particularly on Monday of Labor Day weekend when sports viewing is relegated to Major League Baseball and U.S. Open tennis.

Also of note in the schedule release: there will be no Greenbrier or Houston stops in 2018-19 before resurfacing a year from now on the next schedule.

The obvious big winner in the schedule revamp, besides Floridians getting a nice steady flow of events in March, is the Canadian Open landing the pre-U.S. Open slot. Instead of a post-British Open date, the Canadian now figures to be a vital U.S. Open tune-up for the top players who relish tournament golf leading into a major.

The verdict is still out on other changes: the Dallas stops split up by the PGA Championship. Will players like the Byron Nelson’s links-style test the week before a PGA played traditionally on an inland, rough-lined course? Also, will the Colonial the week after draw a decent field with the Memorial looming just a week later? And most interesting of all, will the new WGC event in Memphis convince many Europeans to travel from the British Open to Tennessee the week after what is now the final major of the season?

The biggest victim in the schedule remake? Big Northeast markets.

The Boston stop is ending with the playoffs moving to three events. The consolation prize of becoming an every-other-year-component of the Northern Trust Open rota is a sound move. But the Tour’s original concept of playoff events in big markets has effectively taken New York and Boston and split up healthy events and big-money stops into one. Then again, the New York area is oversaturated with big-time golf tournaments over the next decade, so maybe a biennial structure will be a positive.

Overall, the new schedule achieves a tighter season out of the shadows of football. And in some weird corners of the world, grown men dressed as odd creatures.

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