In recent months, there's been a lot of talk about moving the PGA Championship to Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe or some other region despite the fact that it's the championship of the Professional Golfers' Association of America.
A lot of people seem to think a massive change in venue would increase interest in the event. But by taking the tournament out of the U.S., the PGA would be forfeiting the biggest golf-playing audience—and probably the biggest golf audience—in the world.
Significant golf tournaments are typically syndicated to approximately 225-230 countries around the world, assuming the PGA Tour's syndication of the Players is typical for a big event. The U.S., with 14-15,000 courses, has more than twice as many as continental Europe plus the U.K., which together have just over 6,700. That's important because courses translate into golfers, and golfers translate into golf viewers.
With the majority of courses and the lion's share of golfers in the U.S., moving the PGA Championship away would lessen the viewing audience, not increase it, because it would take it away from the country with the most golfers and probably the most viewers for the sport. So why should the PGA give up the biggest market? That makes no sense.
What the PGA should do instead is move the tournament to the winter.
With their headquarters at PGA National in North Palm Beach, the PGA Village at Port St. Lucie (both in Florida) and the license agreement at PGA West in La Quinta, California, the organization already has three sites it could use and rotate to on an experimental basis before making a final decision.
In fact, if the PGA wanted to create a sensational venue, the Stadium Course at PGA West, the one taken out of the Humana Challenge because it was too hard, would be the perfect place to do it. (The late Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill had to use a hand mashie to get out of a bunker on the 16th hole there.)
The PGA could keep those three courses in the mix or select from a broad assortment of courses in the Southern tier of the country, mainly along the I-10, I-5, I-75 and I-95 corridors, utilizing locations in Central and South Florida, California and Arizona.
It could even go to Hawaii for prime time. There are numerous courses in Scottsdale or Tucson, countless properties in Northern and Southern California. Florida has more courses than any other state in the U.S.
It could take decades to work through the possibilities.
The PGA could take its choice of weeks from the beginning of January through March, taking care not to step on the Honda Classic.
In terms of weather, the biggest worry would be having an El Nino winter in California because those always bring monsoonal rains. Waiting until the end of February in Arizona would probably eliminate frost delays and provide a few more minutes of precious daylight for tee times. Plus, as of now, that's after the Super Bowl, although the NFL seems bent on extending its season to something that resembles the NBA or MLB.
Hey, how about during the NFL bye week?
That's the where and the when. Now here's the why. The best-kept secret in golf television is that the best ratings are in the winter months. People are snowed and iced in. Huddled in front of their TV sets wishing they could play golf. What could be more exciting for golfers than watching a major?
Right now, the PGA is a victim of bad timing and a compressed schedule. It is smushed between the British Open and the FedEx playoffs, slotted a week after the WGC-Bridgestone. It also suffers from the NFL's preseason and not-quite-to-the-season-but-champing-at-the-bit-for-it college football. Why not find a spot where it's the brightest jewel in a less cramped part of the year?
In January or February, it would be Glory's First Shot, not Glory's Last Shot. Whoever wins would be the first major champion of the year. So forget this goofy stuff about moving the PGA to another country. Just move it to winter. It will up the glamour and the excitement.
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.
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