Nicklaus willing to fit Memorial in the schedule puzzle
ABS-CBN Sports on May 31, 2017 11:24 AM
Jack Nicklaus answers questions during a news conference a few days before the start of the Memorial golf tournament Tuesday, May 30, 2017, in Dublin, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer
DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — It's not as simple as shifting a couple of tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule.
The concept of moving the PGA Championship from August to May is gaining traction, even though there are so many other pieces of the puzzle that PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan should be believed when he says that it's not a done deal.
The idea is for the PGA Tour to end its lucrative FedEx Cup before the NFL gets going, which the tour can only hope will give the season-ending Tour Championship more pop than a $10 million prize couldn't.
For starters, that would mean moving The Players Championship from May back to March, and slotting the PGA Championship somewhere in May. That also means two other PGA Tour events would have to vacate their spot to allow for the Tour Championship to end around Labor Day.
But that's just the math. That doesn't take into account the squabbling that is sure to follow.
"That's sort of Jay's problem now," Jack Nicklaus said. "And I think Jay is wrestling with it. But I think they'll come up with a solution that nobody's going to agree with. But after you have it for a couple of years, you're going to see the reasons why they're doing what they're doing and what they're trying to do."
Nicklaus met with Monahan and other tour officials Tuesday morning, and Nicklaus seemed agreeable, even though his Memorial Tournament could be affected.
The Memorial began in 1976, the perfect date to commemorate legends of the game with a tournament that tries to imitate the pure standards of golf found at Augusta National and a golf course at Muirfield Village that is rarely anything but pure.
It traditionally is two weeks before the U.S. Open.
Move the PGA Championship to May — already a risky proposal that could rule out so many northern golf courses because of the weather — and suddenly the Memorial could be squeezed between the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open.
Nicklaus said he also has met with PGA of America chief Pete Bevacqua about a potential move. And he thinks the Memorial being held on either side of a major would actually help his tournament.
"Because the Memorial Tournament would be the only tournament they (the PGA Tour) have to promote in there in the middle," Nicklaus said. "So it would probably be better for us."
By saying that, Nicklaus ignored the tournaments before and after his own — Colonial last week, which dates to 1946 and is a shrine to Ben Hogan; the FedEx St. Jude Classic, sponsored by the same company shelling out all that money for the FedEx Cup.
But who knows where any tournament is going to wind up?
The tour went through a miniature exercise in this futility a few years ago when it moved the Dell Technologies Match Play to Austin, Texas. It used to be the anchor of the West Coast Swing. It was deposited on the schedule between the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Houston Open.
That left both tournaments irate.
Palmer worried that he would lose players to the 64-man field at a World Golf Championship, while Houston figured players would have a reason to skip its tournament ahead of the Masters. Turns out that five players this year ended up skipping the Match Play.
It was March Madness in golf with so many top tournaments.
And now the PGA Tour is trying to find room for The Players Championship?
Nicklaus threw out one other scenario — moving the PGA Championship to Muirfield Village in an Olympic year. That's unlikely, as it would require presenting sponsor Nationwide to sign off on it, and it would risk the Memorial losing some of its identity.
But it's an example of a complicated process that Monahan faces if the tour decides to go through with a revamped schedule.
The PGA Tour looked so much differently when the Memorial began in 1976. The season began in Tucson, Arizona, the first full week in January. It ended the first full week in November with the Walt Disney World National Team Championship.
There were four majors. There were no World Golf Championships. There was no FedEx Cup. Nicklaus won the money title that year with $266,439. That's about $3,000 less than what eighth place pays at the Memorial this week.
Even before Nicklaus spoke, there was more talk about the PGA Championship moving to May when Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was awarded another PGA sometime before 2030. The temperatures hit triple digits the last time the PGA Championship was at Southern Hills in 2007.
More than the heat, Nicklaus thought a move to May would alleviate fatigue.
"I think that golf in August almost starts to get a little bit tired," Nicklaus said. "It's the end of the season — near the end of the season. And I think the FedEx Cup probably falls in that category, a little bit tired from a spectator thing."