The PGA Tour’s main puzzle pieces for its schedule next year are in place. And now the European Tour is following suit.
The PGA Tour’s decision to move the P.G.A. Championship from August to May next year has created a ripple effect that has reached across an ocean, with the European Tour responding by moving its flagship, the European Tour PGA Championship, into early fall.
Next year’s European Tour PGA Championship is already set for September, while questions linger about where other May events such as the Italian Open, which begins Thursday at Gardagolf Country Club in Soiano del Lago, Italy, fit into the equation. The same goes for match-play events the Belgian Knockout and the GolfSixes.
“It’ll be interesting after this year to see what the schedule will look like,” said the English veteran Ross Fisher, who has won five European Tour events.
The European Tour certainly will be stronger in September, essentially left open for the taking with the PGA Tour’s move toward wrapping its FedEx Cup playoffs by Labor Day. Shifting the European Tour PGA Championship into the void was a practical early strike.
Still to be determined is how the P.G.A. Championship’s move affects the rest of May. For some players, it might mean minimal change to current practices of picking up in Europe after the Players Championship, which shifts to March to clear room for the P.G.A. Championship.
You have 4 free articles remaining.
Subscribe to The Times
Others may be enticed into longer stays in America ahead of the United States Open. In addition, the tour’s European-based slate is just getting underway in May, prompting a look into whether those events are viable elsewhere on the calendar.
“We might have an issue with the weather,” said Martin Kaymer of Germany, a two-time major winner and former world No. 1. “We need to see where we can go [on the calendar] for some of those events.”
It’s the kind of puzzle, perhaps, innately made for Keith Pelley. The European Tour’s chief executive has shown a flair for shaking things up since taking the job in 2015, so re-examining the schedule fits right in.
Rory McIlroy, left, Alex Noren, center, and Lee Westwood during the second round last week at the European Tour PGA Championship.CreditPaul Childs/Reuters
“I think it will be different and modified but, at the same time, it won’t be revolutionary,” Pelley told The Scotsman in May. Several of the tour’s top pros, he added, have been asked what might work best for them.
One priority expressed by players is to maintain the prominence of the Rolex Series. The European Tour PGA Championship is part, as are the three tournaments that finish the Race to Dubai.
Of greater impact, though, is the lift given to four longstanding national opens — this week’s Italian Open, along with the July stretch through France, Ireland and Scotland that leads to the British Open. With the European Tour PGA Championship settling in September and the July stretch expected to remain untouched, only the Italian Open would seem to be in flux. It was played in October last year, though, so a fall return would not be surprising.
“The hope is we can fit in those Rolex Series events at decent times,” Kaymer said.
What effect change might have on smaller European-based tournaments is less clear. After a low of 19 events on the Continent in 2016, the tour has rebounded to 23 stops this season.
With the exception of majors and World Golf Championships events, the tour now ventures outside Europe just once from May through late October.
“The European Tour is in a stronger position right now than a decade ago,” said Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello. “Even if there are fewer tournaments in Europe, I think those tournaments are stronger.”
For those players with one foot in each tour, a pattern has developed.
January’s spotlight for the European Tour falls on the big-money Middle East stops in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, after which players find their way to the end of the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing. Everything points toward the Masters in April, and usually through to the Players Championship in May.
“There are tournaments,” Fisher said, “but it kind of goes quiet until May when Wentworth kicks in.”
That’s where things will be different next year. Depending on what goes into May and early June, it’s conceivable that the tour might not fully heat up until the July stretch of Rolex events.
“We’ll just take it as it comes,” Kaymer said. “I really, really enjoy playing in Europe. It’s still our home. But if you want to compete with the best players in the world and want to get up in the world rankings, I think you have to play in America.”