5 under-the-radar takeaways from the PGA Tour's new 2021-22 schedule
Jared C. Tilton
The new schedule announced Tuesday by the PGA Tour wasn't the massive overhaul delivered in 2018, which saw the PGA Championship move to May, the Players Championship return to March and the postseason shortened from four events to three. Those changes were the equivalent of stripping a house to its framework. Comparatively, the 2021-22 calendar is knocking down the rusty swing set, adding ficuses to the backyard and applying a new coat of paint to the guest house.
Still, with the PGA Tour and European Tour only nine months into their “strategic alliance,” this isn’t the end of the upkeep. According to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and European Tour CEO Keith Pelley, Tuesday’s schedule alterations were the first of more touch-ups to come.
“This is just a step. We think it’s a really important step,” Monahan said. “We think it’s a very strong indication of what we can do together. And for us, we’re going to continue to focus on what we can control and continue to make some significant advancements.”
Our Dan Rapaport and Dave Shedloski have the schedule breakdown, but here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s news.
A win for coffee golf
One of the best stretches of the season is the early-morning marquees from Ireland and Scotland in the Open Championship lead-up, showcasing a type of golf that remains sadly foreign to most in the United States. In that same breath, there is always a feeling these events could be more, as the Irish and Scottish Opens don’t always visit the best courses the countries have to offer and boast good-but-not-great fields. The PGA Tour’s commitment to both—the Irish sees its purse double, the Scottish now a co-sanctioned event—will help enrich the experience. Bigger paydays and points on the line likely will bring more top American players to the Old World events. Notably, neither event has a stated host course for 2022; here’s hoping the tournaments avoid newer resorts and gravitate towards the classic gems that fuel the romanticism of links golf.
Big playoff cities, out
Since its debut in 2007, the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs have has stops that have visited three big markets—New York, Boston and Chicago—with the occasional detour to Denver, St. Louis and Philadelphia. Those metropolises will no longer have an annual spot on the calendar now that Northern Trust is out as the sponsor for the first Playoff event and FedEx takes over by bringing the event to the company's backyard in Memphis. Meanwhile, BMW takes the second leg of the postseason in 2022 to Wilmington, Del.
To be fair, the New York City metro area has more than received its share of love, hosting two U.S. Opens, a PGA Championship and Presidents Cup in the past four years along with three Northern Trust events. Boston, meanwhile, will be home for next year’s U.S. Open. Still, that the tour won’t have a yearly spot in two of the three biggest American cities or a visit to New England’s hub is interesting.
But, as Monahan reminded, don’t expect this departure to be permanent. “For us it’s really a matter of when, not if, we’ll be back,” he said.
The start of the Bear Trap at PGA National.
Honda Classic, Rocket Mortgage Classic get bumps
Zero golfers among the world top 15 played in this year’s Honda Classic despite being a de facto home game for roughly 40 percent of pros on tour, an upshot of the Honda falling between the Players and WGC-Dell Match Play. The field wasn’t particularly strong the previous two years when it followed the WGC-Mexico Championship, either. With the Mexico Championship moved to May, the Honda—the longest running sponsor of a tour event—returns as the kickoff to the Florida Swing, and though the preceding Genesis Invitational may zap some of PGA National’s starpower, it’s in a far better position than it’s been the past several seasons.
As for Detroit, the tournament—which has failed to draw the likes of Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy or Justin Thomas in its three-year infancy—now gets a better chance at those big names by moving to one of the final weeks before the playoffs begin.
Valspar takes (another) hit
There are close to 50 events on the calendar. Though they all fall under the tour’s umbrella, they are also autonomous, leaving the events fighting among themselves for player commitments and calendar space. With the top 10-15 players competing in a little more than half, that is a hard math that leaves a good number of tournaments outside the fire. If there’s one event feeling cold at the moment, it has to be the Valspar Championship. The Valspar was a casualty of the PGA Tour’s schedule 2018 realignment, getting sandwiched between the Players and WGC-Dell Match Play. After a one-year move to late April/early May, it’s now going back to the Players-Match Play burger.
Two alternates get a boost, the other … not so much
The Scottish Open earning co-sanction status was the headliner of Tuesday’s announcement, yet two other tournaments earned the co-sanctioned blessing: the Barbasol Championship and the Barracuda Championship. Both will continue as alternate events—the Barbasol played across from the Scottish Open, the Barracuda the same week as the Open Championship—yet the co-sanction status opens the events to 50 European Tour members and awards points to both the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai, theoretically strengthening the fields of each.
However, another alternate, the Puerto Rico Open, wasn’t so fortunate. It is a tournament that has looked to be getting axed from the schedule before, so its mere survival is a victory in itself. Conversely, instead of playing against a WGC event as it’s annually done, the Puerto Rico Open now faces the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Unless it plans to open spots up to rising Korn Ferry Tour players, it could be a struggle for Puerto Rico to fill out its field.