Golf Editorial

20190901 Golf Needs More Majors

Introduction

Mens’ golf has played four Majors each year for many decades and they are the most prestigious tournaments of any year. I believe this is a great because, as in tennis, there are four big opportunities for players to realise a dream and define their legacy; every year. Spread throughout the year.

Conversely, in most sports there’s just one big opportunity a year, or biannually or even quadrennially: Superbowl, World Series, Champions League Final, Stanley Cup, Football, Cricket or Rugby World Cup, Olympics…….

Therein lies an insoluble problem for the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs. PGA Tour is attempting to mimic many major sports with a post-season spectacular but it’s inherently doomed to failure because of the status of the Majors. In my opinion, the FEC should therefore be scrapped as part of an overhaul of the global golf calendar.

The composition of the Majors has changed over the decades but the number hasn’t. The ‘Majors’ originally consisted of: the British and US Opens and Amateurs but for the past 60 years, effectively since Arnold Palmer first talked about “winning his own grand slam to try and match Bobby Jones” the Major menu has remained unchanged: Masters, US Open, Open Championship & PGA Championship.

That’s all fine but after 60 years I suspect it’s time to add more.

How Many Majors should there be?

I say there should be seven.

Before the traditionalists fall off their chairs, please bear with me. I make my case for seven Majors in the context of two adjustments to golf’s existing annual menu of tournaments, as follows:

  • Scrap the FedEx Cup; it’s irrelevant as well as an obscene waste of money and;
  • Scrap the WGC’s; they’re quaint but redundant.

Womens’ and Seniors’ golf both play five Majors each year and there’s nothing wrong with that. In this context, Mens’ golf as a bigger revenue-driver and attractor of eyes, logically should have more than five. So I say let’s start with seven.

Whither the WGC’s

These tournaments belong to IFPGAT; the International Federation of PGA Tours. Ever heard of it? It was founded in 1996 “to enable the world’s leading tours to discuss common and global issues in professional golf.”

That’s warm and fuzzy but, in my opinion, IFPGAT should have no engagement in sanctioning tournaments; especially committee-generated, no-cut, events carrying bloated purses yet with entry granted to lower-level (with all due respect) golfers solely because they had a good season in: Japan, Australia or South Africa. In my opinion, this is nothing more than a quaint paternal sop to lesser Federation members….

So, I say scrap the WGC’s to help clear the way for the introduction of golf’s 5th, 6th and 7th Majors.

Of course, there is no issue with any Tour hosting a ‘World Matchplay’ or annual big money tournaments in Mexico or China, but such tournaments should, in my opinion, be regular Tour events and succeed or fail on merit rather than bolstered by artificial ‘WGC status’

No More Opposite Field Events

The removal of the WGC’s would enable disadvantaged events: Sanderson Farms, Puntacana, Barracuda & Puerto Rico to have their opportunity to flourish or die, as the market determines, with purses of $6-7m (not $3-4m) and stronger fields.

An added benefit is focus. For golfers, fans and viewers. There’d be two ‘big’ tournaments every week (except December): a PGA Tour & a European Tour event. Better for television, better for spectators (stronger fields), better for the main tours, better for gamblers and a better timezone spread too.

On the topic of focus, if I were king of the golf world there would be no main Tour tournaments played opposite a Major. So I’d cancel or reschedule the Barbasol Championship. The Open Championship should stand in splendid isolation; all Majors should; all seven of them.

Keep the Four Current Majors?

The current Majors are played in USA (3) and UK (1). All carry heritage and prestige (PGA Championship being the weakling of the four in this regard) and should arguably remain in the Major rotation.

However, I’d consider transferring the PGA Championship’s Major status to The Players Championship. With its venue having been one key to The Masters’ prestige and familiarity, it makes sense to add another high quality permanent venue, TPC Sawgrass,

Also, having got rid of IFPGAT it would make some sense to get rid of PGA of America from the Major-sanction scene and have its replacement, The Players Championship, under the aegis of the PGA Tour.

Where to Play the Three New Majors?

I approached this vexed matter by taking: money, geo-location and inter-organisational jealousy into account. In the end, I concluded that the Middle East and China should each gain a Major while I couldn’t make a case for either mainland Europe or North America owning the third new Major outright – so I deemed they should share it.

The Middle Eastern Major would be the first of each year and scheduled late in February, likely under the aegis of the European & MGT Tours. It would take the slot currently occupied by Oman or Qatar and could be annually rotated around the region: UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc.

The Intercontinental Major would sit in a September slot and alternate between Europe & North America. Perhaps it should rotate through existing quality venues such as: Le Golf National, Valderrama, Riviera, Doral and the like?

The Chinese Major to end each Major season is logically the longstanding WGC tournament in Sheshan, held at the end of October; place it under the aegis of the CGA. Its timing perfectly ties in with my revised Major chronology (see below), stretching the Major season from late February to late October.

A New Major Schedule

While the most recent schedule change, shifting the PGA Championship from August to May, was a slight improvement it did create an issue in that the four Majors were compressed between early April and mid-July. On average, one every 4.5 weeks.

I believe seven Majors from late Feb to late October, one every five to six weeks and with no WGC’s, would be better for players’ Major preparation while simultaneously stretching ‘the interest season’ and making it more global and inclusive in its imprint.

Key to this approach is a more global perspective whereby PGA Tour, in particular, changes four mindsets:

  • There should be no fall swing; it’s a defeatist mindset;
  • The golf Major season should be longer and exist independent of american football;
  • The FedEx Cup is a flawed concept; it should be scrapped and;
  • The golf year (season) should follow the natural rhythm of a calendar year.

European Tour would potentially gain a bit through the removal of the FedEx Cup and involvement in two more Majors. However, it also needs to change:

  • More resources should be allocated to its tournaments preceding the Middle East, Intercontinental & Open Championship Majors;
  • Defensive negative moves, such a requiring a minimum number of events to be played to retain Tour membership, should be scrapped and;
  • The tournament schedule should revert to a calendar year, ending in November and;
  • The Race to Dubai should be trashed and replaced by a season-ending Tour Championship (Dubai?); same format as PGA Tour’s Tournament of Champions.

I believe my mooted changes support all of the above. Here’s a rough revised Major schedule:

End February: Middle East

Early April: Masters

Mid-May: Players (or PGA)

Mid-June: US Open

Mid-July: The Open

September: Intercontinental (USA & Europe alternating)

End October: China

There’s longer spacing between Majors to give top players time to rest and try to peak seven times per year. Currently they need to try and peak 8 times from March to October but 7 of those are March to August.

There are multiple windows in which European Tour could strategically schedule its Rolex Series / flagship tournaments.

There’s a natural Mid-East swing to start the season with the recently introduced Saudi tournament capable of slotting in with Qatar and the new Middle East Major in February.

There is still room for the accommodation of non-annual events such as the Ryder Cup and Olympic Games in August or September.

There’s a natural ‘Asian’ swing end to the season with the new Zozo Championship slotting in with the CJ Cup & the new China Major in October.

 

Ⓒ Copyright MJ Miller (Mike) 1 September 2019.