What’s bad for the Midwest is good for golf.
Make that great for golf.
The announcement Tuesday that the PGA Championship will be moved to May beginning in 2019 is long overdue. With very rare exception, the year’s last major has struggled for relevance, an afterthought on both sides of the Atlantic as the sports calendar is being consumed by football and soccer.
Even kitschy slogans didn’t help, as the PGA of America wisely acknowledged a few years back when it ditched “Glory’s Last Shot.”
By moving the PGA to May, it gives the tournament its proper due as a major, making it a centerpiece in the schedule. And by bumping The Players Championship to March, it gives the PGA Tour a strong, six-month stretch without any lulls — for players and fans alike.
“It’s great for the golf schedule,” Rory McIlroy said Tuesday. “To now have one really big tournament every month from March — The Players, to the Masters to the PGA Championship to the U.S. Open to the (British) Open, and to have the FedExCup most likely at end of August or start of September — it just has a better flow to it, I think.
“Obviously it’s still a couple years away,” he added, “but I’m excited to play a schedule like that going forward.”
Playing the PGA Championship in August has been an awkward fit for years, even if tournament organizers didn’t want to acknowledge it. Aside from years when the career Grand Slam was in play, or one of the hot young stars was gunning for his first major, what should be one of golf’s biggest deals had less buzz than some pro-ams.
Part of that was its penchant for producing random champions. Any idea where Y.E. Yang is these days? How about Shaun Micheel or Wayne Grady? But mostly it was because the PGA Championship had come to feel like a tradition that had been outgrown, especially once the deep-pocketed FedEx Cup was created.
The return of golf to the Olympics might have wreaked havoc on the schedule last year, when the PGA had to be played at the end of the July, but it also gave PGA of America and Tour officials a gift. If the PGA could be moved one year, it could be moved any year.
“We come back to the unavoidable reality that the landscape in August is changing,” said Pete Bevacqua, chief executive officer of the PGA of America, which hosts the PGA Championship.
But improvements don’t come without a price, and this is no different.
The PGA Championship is a frequent visitor to the Midwest and Northeast, with 13 of the last 21 played in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin or Minnesota. Whistling Straits, about 45 minutes north of Milwaukee, has hosted it three times just since 2004.
If you’ve spent any time in the Midwest or Northeast in May and in August, you know why.
August is generally gorgeous. Sure, there might be an occasional shower or a day when the humidity makes stepping outside feel like stepping into a sauna. But more often than not it’s sunny with temperatures in the 80s — perfect weather to play golf or watch others do it.
May is another story altogether. It could be warm and breezy. It could also snow or feel like the North Pole. Last year, Chicago matched its record-low for May 15 at 35 degrees. Three years before that, a snow early in the month dumped more than a foot of snow in some places in the Midwest.
Those are freak occurrences, sure, and Bevacqua said the PGA Championship will be played later in the month, the third or fourth week in May. But the weather is fickle enough in the spring that getting a course in shape to host a major championship will be an even tougher test than the tournament itself. You think the griping about the greens at Chambers Bay was bad? Just wait.
While Bevacqua said “nothing is off the table” in terms of geography, it doesn’t take a meteorologist to know the move to May will end the days of the PGA Championship being played in the Midwest and probably the Northeast.
But it’s a change that needed to happen. The PGA Championship has become a major in name only, and that’s no good for anyone, anywhere.
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.