At the beginning of the golf season, it looked like the PGA Tour finally had it right with the scheduling of the playoffs. Two weeks on, a week break, two weeks back on, a week break, Presidents Cup. Yet even Tiger Woods, who has great physical conditioning, said that it’s a lot of golf at the end of the year.
Do the best golfers, those who contend the most, need more rest before starting the FedEx Playoffs?
“We’re asking the guys to play from basically the British Open on,” Woods said after posting a third-round 69 in the Tour Championship. “Some guys have obligations to play in Canada the following week, and they get in Bridgestone, the PGA and the playoffs.” Following that is a cup event for the Americans.
Really, 15 or 16 events is not a lot to ask out of a nine- or 12-month schedule, but Woods is right about the demands of the schedule from the British Open onward. This year, a top player could have played four in a row starting with the British Open and then had a week off, and then two in a row, a break week, two in a row, a break week and and then the Presidents Cup. That’s nine, high-level, demanding events in 12 weeks.
“I normally don’t play that much,” Woods added about the schedule. “There’s a reason why. So that I’m rested. I can do all my preparation, and I can be ready to play on all 72 holes.”
He said the only fix was to play a Steve Sticker-like schedule. Stricker will play 13. (Because of the contraction in the schedule for 2013, the PGA Tour reduced the number of required events from 15 to 12 for this season only.)
Because Stricker was a winner in 2012, he played Hyundai. Because he has a great world ranking, he played in two World Gold Championship events in the winter. He warmed up for the Masters, which he was exempt from, at the Shell Houston Open. Then Stricker disappeared until The Players Championship and went away again until the U.S. Open.
Stricker then went away until the John Deere and three weeks later played WGC Bridgestone and made enough money or had a world ranking high enough to get him into the PGA. That’s nine. The FedEx Playoffs make it 13.
At the beginning of the year, Stricker had no way to know if he would play well enough to get through the playoffs to the Tour Championship, but there was time to add events if needed. (Majors, which are not PGA Tour events, are counted in the total required number, so 12 for this year or 15 for most years is not difficult if they are spaced out.)
What about Woods’ schedule? He will have played 16 through the Tour Championship: four majors, The Players (or the fifth major as we call it in Ponte Vedra), three WGC events, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Jack Nicklaus Invitational, plus the Farmers Insurance Open, The Honda Classic and the FedEx Playoffs.
So the question is, would it make any sense to add another regular PGA Tour tournament after the PGA season and then start the playoffs after Labor Day?
It would allow the hype of the start of the NFL and college football to wear off. Kids would be back in school and schedules would be adjusted. Half the football teams would lose once or twice and fan interest for some of them would diminish.
Meanwhile, top players that everyone wants to see at their best, those high up in the points rankings, could take two weeks off and be rested and ready to compete for the season finale.
Those in the 110 to 135 range would suffer, but the FedEx Cup prize is so large, it’s worth the effort for them to play during the weeks that the top players don’t. In fairness, they probably were not in the WGC Bridgestone and perhaps not the British Open. They might relish a fighting chance to get into the playoffs.
What’s the downside? The next season would need to get moved a week. But in Malaysia, at least, golf can be played all 12 months, as it can in Mexico. Shanghai, China has a latitude that is equal to some point between Savannah, Ga. and Jacksonville, Fla., so golf can probably be played comfortably through November.
Taking nothing away from those at the Tour Championship, because they are names, but would adding one more week between the PGA Tour and the start of the FedEx Playoffs allow the top players a chance to make a stronger run at the FedEx Cup? Maybe Tiger Woods is right about this.
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from theUSGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.