Among the thought-provoking articles I’ve read this week was this piece by Kyle Robbins. Kyle’s central thesis is that courses don’t really matter, so the majors should be chosen by attendance. Regardless of whether you agree or not, this is DEFINITELY what the PGA of America thinks.
The PGA of America has been dealt a poor hand. For a variety of reasons, the PGA Championship is a major without an identity. Kevin Van Valkenburg called it ¾ of a major on the podcast last week and, intuitively, we all agree with him. Everyone knows it’s the worst of the four majors. Even Club Pro Guy.
To best play this poor hand, the PGA of America has adopted (in my view) a sensible strategy. One way to bolster their somewhat cut-rate product is to play it where no one else goes. Go to the cities the USGA executives fly over. This is why Bellerive was selected. This is why last year’s PGA was in Charlotte. This is why the PGA of America not only plays at, but owns, Valhalla. And it is, perhaps, the reason the PGA Championship is moving to May.
In its endless search for untapped markets, there is no bigger score than Texas. The state of Texas has not hosted a major since 1969. New York City, by comparison, has hosted ten in the same time. Texas has two of the five largest metropolitan areas in the United States. In addition, it has San Antonio and Austin, which are approximately the same metropolitan size as St Louis. It is a state filled with hardcore sports fans.
In its search for off-the-beaten-path markets for majors, Texas is the real prize. By moving to May, the PGA of America opens up five more Bellerives… The PGA of America is planning its own course on ranch property in booming Frisco, Texas.
Yes, the PGA is scheduled at some great places: Bethpage (‘19), Oak Hill (‘23), Aronimink (‘27). But in the shuffle, sometimes your PGA is going to be held at uninspiring, but conveniently located courses. Does the PGA have a prayer of competing with the USGA to lure the best courses? Not right now. The future US Open schedule includes Shinnecock, Oakmont, LACC, Pebble Beach. The PGA just isn’t going to pick off any of those places anytime soon.
Is this a good idea? Maybe it will work for a major. But it definitely has risks. In 2018, golf tournaments are NOT only about leaderboards. If they were, WGC events would be the best events of the year and… oh boy, is that most definitely not the case.
Dismissing the role of the course in a major is a huge mistake. One oddity of golf is that people remember the venues as much as they remember the winner. You may love baseball, but you’re never going to play in Fenway Park. If you love golf, you’ll probably play a major course or two eventually in your life. So, please… make it a good one.