Short offseason beats alternative of denying young players
Oct. 20, 2015
NAPA, Calif. (AP) — The PGA Tour went 17 days from when Jordan Spieth's putt ended one season until Will MacKenzie's tee shot started another.
For Steven Bowditch, who played in the Presidents Cup, the offseason felt even shorter.
"It was a 10-hour flight from Korea," Bowditch said.
The offseason on the PGA Tour has become open season for the critics who harp about a sport that never goes into hibernation.
Did it ever?
Ten years ago, the PGA Tour had 48 official tournaments squeezed into 44 weeks in a calendar year. The season began on Jan. 6 at Kapalua, and there was a tournament (or two) every week until it ended Nov. 6 at the Tour Championship.
Now that the tour has gone to a wraparound season that starts in October and ends in September, the numbers actually are slightly lower. There will be 47 events in 2015 spread over 43 weeks. Only the starting line has moved.
Still too much golf? Probably.
Then again, those who think the PGA Tour should have a longer offseason usually aren't playing golf right now, anyway.
One thing hasn't changed. Players can take off as much as time as they want.
The length of the offseason is up to them.
Tiger Woods in the first year of the FedEx Cup went 10 weeks without playing. Two years later, he spent his offseason playing in Asia and Australia. It was his choice.
Brandt Snedeker is part of a growing number of players who only know a PGA Tour schedule built around the FedEx Cup. He was rookie of the year in 2007, made it all the way to the Tour Championship, took two months off and then ended his year with two events in Japan and two in Australia.
The next year, he took nearly three months off and only played once in Japan. This year, he's playing at least three times in the fall, maybe more.
"When we started the wraparound season three years ago, I was against it," he said. "I thought we needed an offseason. We needed time when we're not competing against football and all that stuff. But now that we're in the third year of it, I think it's been good. It gives guys an opportunity to play if they need it. For rookies, it's a chance to get their feet wet while they're still in form. They're not taking two months off and freaking out about it. They get right into it."
And that's what should be considered.
When there was talk 10 years ago about a shorter season, Woods and Phil Mickelson were leading the charge. Woods said he would like to see the season end around Labor Day, though he figured that was unrealistic.
Mickelson, if he had his way, would get rid of the fall tournaments entirely. Remember, he was a strong voice on that Ryder Cup Task Force that chose to ignore the Fall tournaments and not award Ryder Cup points until January. His logic was reasonable. It was giving the "bottom half" of the tour a head start over the "top guys."
What would happen if the Fall events went away and the PGA Tour had a real offseason?
The criticism would shift to how the tour is shutting out the increasing number of great young talent. The old version of Q-school would return, though that didn't help a future No. 1 like David Duval. He missed the cut his first year in Q-school. Jordan Spieth didn't get out of second stage.
Brooks Koepka got his start during the wraparound season. He now has a PGA Tour card and is No. 12 in the world. Would he have made it onto the tour without those opportunities? Probably. Great players are never held back. But it sure helped.
With a three-month offseason, how many events would Justin Thomas have played last year? How many does Patrick Rodgers get this year? How much longer before anyone outside golf circles knows anything about Emiliano Grillo?
Good play goes a long way. But it starts with opportunity.
Really, the offseason hasn't changed at all — middle of November until the humpbacks are breaching off Maui.
Is anyone paying attention? Only the hard-core golf fans, and these events are all on the Golf Channel. They know where to find it. This was the audience watching the 84 Lumber Classic and Michelin Championship, which used to occupy space in the fall until the Tour Championship.
Snedeker didn't feel any differently standing on the first tee Thursday at the Frys.com Open as he did on the 18th green at East Lake only 17 days earlier. He's still playing, just like he usually does, whether it's in America or overseas.
"It's a new season because we're at zero, but it's kind of a continuation," he said. "Last year I didn't have a good year and for the first time in my career I didn't get to the BMW Championship. So I had five weeks off, and I couldn't wait to start the year.
"Guys who didn't play as well as they wanted can't wait for the new season to start," he said. "Guys who played great, it's probably not as important to them."