Before the start of the 2012 season, the PGA Tour announced a tweak to the start of its schedule. It was a tweak designed for golf and sports fans who were being forced to choose between watching golf’s opening event of the season, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and the second day of the NFL’s Wild Card weekend.
Starting the tournament on Friday and ending it on Monday worked out perfectly. The final round ended just before coverage of the national championship game in college football, so it was a win-win-win for those watching at home. NFL football, final-round golf and college football championship on Monday.
It’s safe to say it’s worked out pretty well in 2013 as well. Because of very uncharacteristic weather in Hawaii, fans were able to watch all the football they cared to since play was scheduled to begin Friday night.
Obviously, this week is an anomaly with the unusual weather featuring rain and high winds that have made the Plantation Course unplayable. But the idea to start and end the tournament a day later than usual is a good one.
Think about it. In addition to avoiding the NFL playoffs, starting the PGA Tour season early in January has always been very iffy in terms of interest with everything else going on. That’s why the decision was made originally.
Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour’s executive vice president and chief of operations, told Golfweek a bit about the reasoning prior to the 2012 season.
“The event is finishing on Monday so the final round will not conflict with the NFL playoffs,” Pazder said. “In addition, it moves the event one additional day away from the Christmas/New Year's Day holiday, which is a plus for the players, Hyundai and Hyundai's guests.”
Beyond all of that, the bottom line on this tournament is that it’s not a full-field event, which makes it an exclusive event. But since only 30 of the 37 players eligible to compete in Hawaii (Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els are the headliners missing), much of that special winners-only feeling is missing.
Yeah, it’s a nice event and we get to see Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson and Ian Poulter. Most of the 30 winners are established players (nine are first-timers) so we know who they are, but they don’t provide the pop the game’s elite do.
With all of that in mind, why not make the tournament a little different?
You’re talking about a tournament that, while providing snow-bound fans spectacular beauty and plenty of sunshine, is not a traditional event. It’s on the schedule because the season needs to start somewhere and Hawaii is as good a place as any and better than most.
This week and the Sony Open next week are the only two golf weeks of the year that give sports fans night golf. How good is that?
It’s a novelty, so why not do things out of the ordinary. The PGA Tour is, by its nature, very routine-oriented and once the Tournament of Champions is through, it will be back to the Thursday-through-Sunday, weekly grind. The only other time a PGA Tour event is intended to end on a Monday is the Deutsche Bank Classic that is held over Labor Day outside of Boston.
Football isn’t the driving force behind the Deutsche Bank being a Monday finish. That has more to do with the event being played on a holiday weekend, with Monday being Labor Day.
For the record, I love the idea. I don’t think I’m all that different from a lot of other sports fans. These are great weekends for us. The bowl games finishing, NFL playoffs getting cranked up and then night golf. For many of us, the end of the bowl season signals a cold, snowy stretch of time that cries for something.
It’s a great thing for the PGA Tour, which benefits them by giving television audiences an opportunity to watch the game on a non-traditional night when folks are still trying to ease back into post-holiday life.
Just because something isn’t like all the others doesn’t make it a bad thing. Sure, it’s a change from the routine, but so is a match-play tournament and there’s only one of those on the yearly schedule. The PGA Tour could do with another one or two of those, just like breaking up the schedule a little with a couple more Friday-through-Monday events.