DETROIT – One of the biggest adjustments players face in professional golf is learning to build a schedule. Assuming they’re eligible for most events, striking a balance between reps and rest – while playing tournaments that suit their game – is key.
It wasn’t just the rookies trying to make sense of it all this year. A revamped schedule for 2018-19 means even the most experienced veterans were back to square one to start the season.
“This was the first year, to be honest with you, in years that I really looked at the schedule,” said Chez Reavie, who won the Travelers Championship in mid-June. “I just knew where the tournaments were, I knew where I was going, I knew where I was going to be. This year it’s like, wait a minute – what’s coming up? Where are we going? What are we doing?”
What’s coming up is a furious stretch of golf to wrap up the major schedule and shortened FedEx Cup playoffs before September. Usually this feels like a midway point, with two majors still on the calendar. But with the PGA Championship’s move to May, the British Open at Royal Portrush in July is the final major chapter for 2019.
The Tour heads to Minneapolis this week for another first-time event coming off the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. Then it’s on to the John Deere Classic followed by the British Open and the alternate-field Barbasol Championship.
A new WGC event in Memphis debuts after the British Open, followed by last call to get into the playoffs at the Wyndham Championship.
It all makes for a rapid five-week stretch with which players are still trying to get acclimated.
“Man, it just seems like it’s way earlier,” said Jimmy Walker, who’s playing Detroit, Minneapolis, the Scottish Open and British Open ahead of the Wyndham Championship.
The early leg of the new schedule seemed like a success, with big events every month as the Players Championship moved to March and PGA Championship to May. That’s the biggest upside for now, while figuring out how to deal with the second half seems like the biggest challenge.
“I definitely felt like it’s been better for golf in general, cause it created a lot more drama starting in March,” Brandt Snedeker said. “Now you’re kind of in the home stretch with the British Open and playoffs starting up. This is a busy spot coming up. … I’m sure I’ll be tired and need a little break after the playoffs, but it’s been that way every year.”
Snedeker decided to play Detroit because he’d heard good things about the golf course and wanted to give the first-year event a real shot. But he’s using this year as a tryout period for his own schedule, getting a feel for the new events and trying to figure out what gives him the best chance at success. It’s a common approach this season.
But balancing the right amount of playing time and down time is as challenging as ever. Snedeker will spend about 38 of 52 weeks on the road this year.
“This year was kind of a trial period for everybody,” Snedeker said. “We’re all trying to figure out, OK, how can I play my best, be ready for the big events I want to be ready for, still play the events I love and in the meantime find some breaks in there where I can get my body back to where I have some time off to be a dad with my kids.”
If there’s a consistent complaint regarding the new schedule – or the old one, really – it’s the lack of a structured offseason. Some were led to believe there might be a longer break with the FedEx Cup Playoffs ending earlier, but the Tour has instead added more fall events and will begin the 2019-20 season Sept. 12-15 with the Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, two weeks after the 2018-19 Tour Championship.
That’s one of 11 fall events already on the docket for 2019-20, though the Tour has not yet released the full schedule.
The issue for some players is that taking an extended break and missing a chunk of those starts means beginning 2020 well behind the eight ball in the FedEx Cup standings.
“(The Tour) acted like there was gonna be a better offseason and then they added a lot more golf tournaments,” Walker said. “… They want you to play a lot of golf and we are golfers. Not like we’re not playing at home anyways. But taking a break from the grind, that’s kind of nice and not feeling like you’ve gotta be gone all the time.”
Others like rookie Sungjae Im have it easy. Just play everything. Im will make his 30th start of the season in Minnesota, teeing it up in nearly every event he’s been eligible for. Snedeker plays more than some and has made 21 starts this season. Dustin Johnson has 14 under his belt.
That’s a luxury for the few elite golfers secure in their status and skills to take extended breaks and still finish near the top of the standings annually.
“We’d love to see a month break in October or November,” Snedeker said. “But I know the Tour’s policy is and always will be that there’s always gonna be golf on TV somewhere, might as well be our own. I get what they’re thinking, but for us, we’re having less and less choice of how much we play just because of how the Tour stacks up right now.”
It is true that the current wraparound schedule is unlikely to change, and the current format strongly nudges players to enter more fall events. We’ll see how that dynamic plays out in the coming months.
But the most critical stretch of this season wraps up in a matter of weeks, and the new schedule seems to have accomplished at least one goal as players figure out what makes the most sense for them in the years to come.
“I think it’s great,” Reavie said. “We’re playing a lot more golf in a shorter period of time which, yes, you get tired. But at the same time, you can be sitting at home and have nothing to do and that would be worse.”
2019-20 SCHEDULE FALL EVENTS
Sep. 12-15: A Military Tribute at the Greebrier
Old White TPC, White Sulphur Springs, W.V.
Sep.19-22: Sanderson Farms Championship,
Country Club of Jackson, Jackson, Miss.
Sep. 26-29: Safeway Open
Silverado Resort and Spa North, Napa, Calif.
Oct. 3-6: Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
TPC Summerlin, Las Vegas, Nev.
Oct. 10-13: Houston Open
Golf Club of Houston, Humble, Texas
Oct. 17-20: The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges
Nine Bridges, Jeju Island, Korea
Oct. 24-27: The ZOZO Championship
Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, Chiba, Japan
Oct. 31-Nov. 3: Bermuda Championship
Port Royal Golf Club, Southamptom Parish, Bermuda
Oct. 31-Nov. 3: World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions
Sheshan International Golf Club, Shanghai, China
Nov. 14-17: Mayakoba Golf Classic
El Camaleon Golf Club, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Nov. 21-24: The RSM Classic
Sea Island Resort (Seaside), Sea Island, Ga.
Dec. 4-7: Hero World Challanege*
Albany, New Providence, Bahamas
Dec. 12-15: Presidents Cup*
Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Dec. 13-15: QBE Shootout*
Tiburon Golf Course, Naples, Fla.
*Unofficial PGA Tour events