News & ToursAugust 11, 2015

European Tour to back out of WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in 2016

HAVEN, Wis. -- The Rio Olympics has claimed its first casualty.

To accommodate the return of golf to the Summer Games, the 2015-16 PGA Tour schedule has been shuffled from its normal rotation. The biggest change sees the PGA Championship moved from its custom mid-August slot to the last week of July. But another noteworthy transaction involves the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

The event at Firestone Country Club has become one of the best non-major tournaments of the year. Alas, that standing just took a serious hit.

Due to the new schedule, the Bridgestone Invitational now coincides with the French Open, one of the tentpoles of the European circuit. As such, the Euro Tour will not count the Bridgestone Invitational towards its Race to Dubai or Ryder Cup standings.

With the French Open holding particular gravitas next summer on its 100th anniversary, many European stars are expected to skip the Akron, Ohio, competition.

"That's an understandable dilemma," said Darren Clarke, will will be captain of the 2016 Ryder Cup team, at Whistling Straits on Tuesday. "I think next year with the Olympics being back in, we all realize how difficult it has been for scheduling issues.

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"And it depends on what guys want to do. If they're close to qualifying on the points list or they're close to qualifying through Dubai, it's a tough decision to make."

The Olympics golf competition, which will be held in Brazil from Aug. 8-14, will be a quagmire to multiple tournaments. The John Deere Classic likely won't have reigning champion Jordan Spieth at its event, and with the British Open and PGA Championship separated by just one week, the RBC Canadian Open -- the tournament sandwiched between the two majors -- will undoubtedly see a drop in participation from the world's best players.

But, in the early wake of the Olympics' ripples, the Bridgestone Invitational appears to be the biggest victim.

Take the case of Shane Lowry. One would think last week's winner at Bridgestone would return to defend his title, but if Lowry, a native of Ireland, harbors hopes of making the Ryder Cup squad, the French Open would be his better route.

"It's a tough decision for him," Clarke noted. "But in terms of what the European Tour has done, I think they've done the right thing by standing beside one of their mainstays of the European Tour. The French Open is steeped in history, around a wonderful venue that we have the 2018 Ryder Cup around."

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