When the National Football League added a 17th game to its regular season, pushing the league calendar back one week deeper into February, it certainly caused some problems for the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing.
The PGA Tour showed last week just what it could do about the challenge of having events played against an additional week of the NFL, and unfortunately for the tour, the evidence is there isn’t much that can be done.
With the 2021-22 schedule release for the pro tour, only one change was made to the West Coast Swing. The Waste Management Phoenix Open, which had traditionally been played the same weekend as the Super Bowl, will move a week later in the season and still be played against the Super Bowl on Feb. 13. The Phoenix tournament considers its on-course party during the week at the TPC Scottsdale to have enough drawing power to hold its own against the Super Bowl.
To accommodate the move, the AT&T Pebble Beach tournament, which certainly did not want to be played the weekend of the Super Bowl, moves a week earlier to Feb. 6, the prized open week between the AFC and NFC championship games and the Super Bowl. But there is still bad news for two West Coast events.
One is The American Express in La Quinta. For most years, that tournament has been played the weekend of the two conference championship games, meaning the Sunday final round at PGA West was played at the same time as the two games that determine the Super Bowl teams. Now the American Express will watch as the NFL plays two games on Saturday and two games on Sunday the same week as the La Quinta event.
A tough draw for some tournaments
The Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego, which has enjoyed being not only the first tournament of the calendar year on CBS but also being played the empty week before the Super Bowl, will now face the Sunday conflict with the AFC and NFC championship games. That, in turn, will be a problem for CBS, with lead golf announcer Jim Nantz sure to call the AFC Championship that weekend rather than golf.
There were other fascinating things that you might have missed in the tour schedule announcement. For instance:
The end of World Golf Championships?: Well, maybe not quite the end, but a significant shift. Instead of four WGC events, there will only be two, the WGC-Dell Match Play event in March and the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. The WGC event in Mexico is no longer designated a WGC event, though a tournament in Mexico will still be played, and the WGC-FedEx St. Jude’s tournament played just last weekend will now be the first event of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Co-sanctioned events: The PGA Tour says the WGC events might not be needed as much since the men’s game is becoming more global. Well, that could be viewed as a response to the threat from the Premier Golf League, which has yet to play an event but has caused a shake-up in men’s golf by promising to bring more of the top players in the game together more often. The same could be said for the PGA Tour’s announcement of three new co-sponsored tournaments as part of the strategic alliance between the PGA Tour and European Tour.
Those events will be the Scottish Open, generally played the week before the British Open, the Barbasol Championship and the Barracuda Championship. Those events will now feature players from both tournaments and will award points for both the FedEx Cup playoffs and the European Tour’s Race to Dubai season-long chase. The Scottish Open and Barbasol Championship will be played the same week, and the Barracuda Championship will be played opposite the British Open.
There are a few other small things that have changed for the 2021-22 schedule. A few tournaments will be happier, and a few tournaments will not be happy at all. But the shuffle on the West Coast swing and the opening of more chances for global golf are certainly the highlights. And it may be the beginning of more shuffling in years to come.
Larry Bohannan is The Desert Sun golf writer, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (760) 778-4633. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @larry_Bohannan. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Desert Sun.