- The PGA Championship will move back to May starting in 2019
- The time between the last major in one season until the first major of the following season will increase to 8.5 months.
- A fifth major in Australia or Asia during the winter would bring a major championship to an area where the sport is immensely popular.
The PGA Championship tees off this week at Quail Hollow Club in North Carolina in what will be one of the final times that the golf major will be played in August.
The PGA Tour has announced that the PGA Championship will be moved to May in 2019, the tournament’s first time in May in 70 years.
The idea to move the golf major was reportedly sparked by the return of golf to the Olympics and the scheduling difficulties that it presented during the 2016 season. Because of the mid-August Olympic tournament, the PGA Championship was moved to the end of July, just two weeks after the Open Championship, forcing the world’s top golfers to effectively play three major tournaments in a span of five weeks.
While moving the PGA Championship would eliminate conflict with the Olympics, it also compacts the golf majors into an even smaller window. Rather than play four majors in a 19-week span, as they are doing this year, they would play four majors in a 16-week span.
More importantly, the sport would go 8.5 months in between majors — from the Open Championship in late July to the start of the Masters in early April — instead of seven. While men’s golf does have other top events during that span, such as The FedEx Cup Playoffs and the biennial Ryder Cup, eight months is a long time for casual golf fans to go without a marquee event and it is a huge desert for a sport with a calendar that is now effectively year-round.
The solution — a fifth major.
The obvious solution would be to fill the gap with something many have been clamoring for for a long time — a fifth major.
One solution would be to finally make the Players Championship a major, an unofficial moniker it already holds in some circles and a distinction many have been calling for for years.
As part of the deal to move the PGA Championship, the Players is expected to move from its current spot in May to its original March date, giving men’s golf one marquee event in each month from March through July — including the U.S. Open in June and The Open in July — and a bonus marquee event once every four years in August at the Olympics.
But making the Players a major would not add much to the sport, and the golfing world outside of the United States would almost certainly be resistant to having four of the five majors played in a single country.
Play the fifth major in Asia or Australia during the winter.
The more likely scenario is to add a fifth major during the winter in Asia or Australia.
The PGA Tour already includes stops in Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai in October, events that are popular with the top golfers, as well a November stop in Australia and January tournaments in Hawai’i.
In addition, many top golfers play the Australian Open in late November.
Any of the bigger events in Asia or Australia, or even a new event created just to be a winter major would be perfect. It would fill the huge gap in the schedule without a major, it would bring a major golf championship to a part of the world where the sport’s popularity has exploded, and maybe most importantly, it would add a huge pay day for both the sport and the players.
There are two notable downsides to having a fifth major.
There are two downsides: 1) A winter major would risk going head-to-head with the NFL; and 2) Tradition.
The first can be solved by holding the event in late February. However, that could force the PGA Tour to reshuffle their other stops in Asia from October and November and possibly the January stops in Hawai’i. Because of this, South Africa might also make sense as a future home for a fifth major.
The second is less worrisome logistically, but may be more problematic. Let’s face it, a lot of people just won’t want to move beyond what the sport has been doing for decades.
In 2013, veteran Trevor Immelman of South Africa echoed what is likely the sentiments of many.
“I’m about upholding the traditions of the game,” Immelman told the New York Times. “As an aspiring young golfer who grew up in a small town on the western Cape, I knew that there were four tournaments by which the best players were measured… I think using the term fifth major is ridiculous. There is no such thing.”
Of course, the majors weren’t always as we know them now. At one point the majors consisted of the Open Championship, the U.S. Open, and a pair of amateur tournaments. At other times, the Western Open was considered a major. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the current group of four tournaments were truly considered something separate from the rest of the schedule, something that probably irked traditionalists at that time.
Traditions change. Sports grow. A fifth major is just the next logical step for golf… well, men’s golf. Women’s golf has already seen the light. They have had five major championships since 2013.
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