Ranking the 10 biggest winners of the new PGA Tour schedule
Ever since the new 2018-19 PGA Tour schedule was released on Tuesday, we've rightfully heard quite a lot about the casualties. Joel Beall's breakdown touches on most of them—the Valspar getting squeezed between the Players and the WGC Match Play, the loss of a FedExCup playoff event, the decimation of all things Texas, and the slotting of two new events (the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit and the 3M Open in Minnesota) into the potentially difficult mid—U.S. Open—British Open dead zone. But I'd like to take a moment to look on the bright side of life, and count down the ten biggest winners.
10. The Greenbrier
The Greenbrier is totally absent from next year's schedule, but it's coming back as a fall event in 2019-20. I don't know the exact reasons for this, but to me, the Greenbrier has gone from a mostly irrelevant summer event that only Bubba cared about to the coolest kid in school. As far as I'm concerned, the Greenbrier got caught smoking in the boy's room, got a long suspension from the uptight principal, and has to go in detention when it returns. Sounds bad, but we all know the reality—that kid is insanely cool and scary, and can have any girl he wants. The Greenbrier is Judd Nelson from the Breakfast Club.
9. Golf Itself
You know what town isn't represented on the PGA Tour next year, in any way, shape, or form? Washington, D.C. You can't tell me that's not a huge victory. (Like everything else that happens in that town, everyone insisted the D.C. tournament was a great idea, and then it went to hell in a handbasket.)
Roger Goodell and whoever runs NCAA football had a huge problem on their hands the last few years, which is that nobody watched any early season football because they were glued to their TV sets watching the finale of the FedExCup playoffs. Now? The season wisely ends on Aug. 25, a week before the first big D-I college games and two weeks before the start of the NFL season. With this act of scheduling mercy by the PGA Tour, the men of the gridiron can now breathe an enormous sigh of relief.
7. The FedExCup Playoffs
Okay, let's get serious—three playoff events is way better than four. Under the old system, you started with 125 players, reduced it to 100, then 70, then 30. Now? It's just 125-70-30. That makes it harder for the guys near the bottom, but to be honest, they're pretty lucky to be there in the first place. It's hard to calculate exactly what percentage of players make the playoffs in golf, since anyone can accumulate FedExCup points (the current list has 248 entries), but in terms of players with a realistic shot, way more than half are making the Northern Trust. That's more than any normal sports league, and advancing past that stage should be difficult for them. Three events is plenty, and hopefully this is just the beginning of a reform process that ends in a match play finale.
6. The Spanish-Speaking World
Between the Mayakoba, the WGC-Mexico City, the Puntacana in the Dominican Republic, and the return of the Puerto Rico Open, there are four whole events in Spanish-speaking countries on the schedule. That, I'm pretty sure, is a world record. And sure, one of them is a fall event, and two are opposite WGCs, but a tournament is still a tournament. We're slowly approaching the day when golf overtakes baseball and soccer as the most beloved sport of the Caribbean/Central-South American world. And that is only bad if it ends up hurting the New York Yankees somehow. ¡Vamonos El Tour!
5. The Florida Swing
It's back, baby! Four straight events in our most...interesting (read: weird and bad) state! I am no Florida lover, but the revamped March swing is going to be the best it's ever been with the addition of the Players Championship. The Valspar may be getting the shaft (as if the sandwich schedule isn't bad enough, the tourney is now smack dab in the middle of the first weekend of March Madness), but the relocated Players will add spice to the Arnold Palmer. It also saves the Honda Classic, which moves from a superfluous add-on stuck between L.A. and Mexico to a more convenient slot at the start of the swing. And speaking of the Players...
4. The Players
It's extremely wise of the PGA Tour to move their flagship event to March. There was nothing especially wrong with holding it in May, but now it's the first mega-event on the calendar and can be viewed as an important lead-in to the four majors. The tournament's status shoots skyward. It also extends the "meaningful" portion of the golf season—ie the point at which casual fans tune in—by about a month.
3. The PGA Championship
At first, I thought this was a bad move—the only real identity the PGA had was that it came last on the calendar. Every other major has its own special flavor, but the PGA seemed to lack a certain vitality. This move seemed to deprive it of its last drip of uniqueness. However, I've since changed my tune. It's now in the thick of major season, and the idea of being "last" was never as valuable as it seemed—by August, everything feels a little enervated, and the PGA consistently brought the lowest TV ratings. Now that it's a month after the Masters, and a month before the U.S. Open, I actually think the discussion and the relevance around the event will get a serious boost. And I have an idea for a new slogan: "Glory's Second Shot, Unless You Count the Players, in Which Case...Glory's Third Shot...We're Not Counting Mexico, Right? Cuz Then It Would Be Glory's Fourth Shot, But I Don't Think We're Counting WGCs."
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I'm not going to lie to you and say that the spot between the Memorial and the U.S. Open is primo real estate, exactly, BUT! it's way the hell better than the week after the British Open, which is arguably the worst spot on the whole schedule (sorry, St. Jude—although your WGC designation is a nice consolation prize). At least with the new spot, the Canadian Open is still on the same continent. I think they'll inevitably get a better field this way, and one that isn't merely all the RBC guys plus the scrubs who couldn't make the British.
1. Primavictus, the Dread God of Spring
The biggest change of all, however, is a general calendar shift. By the time the first day of summer hits in 2019 (June 21), we'll have completed the following events: the WGC-Mexico, the Players, the WGC-Match Play, the Masters, the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open. That's insane—that's six of the year's eight big events before the FedExCup Playoffs done before the solstice. Summer has been de-emphasized, and the big beneficiary is spring. All hail Primavictus!