With Major season over already it’s time for us to get out and play... and for a big schedule change, says Andrew Cotter
In the latest issue of Today's Golfer, Andrew Cotter reflects on the big change he'd make to the major schedule and the end of the 2018/19 PGA Tour season
One thing about having played golf for almost the entirety of my 46 years (I know! What’s my secret?!) is that I have a lifetime of memories. And every season produces a very different image from the golfing archive. Yes, they’re probably more distorted by nostalgia the older I get, but I do love the way golf changes and the unique feel every month brings.
I always liked August. It was when the courses seemed to play at their best – certainly they were at their firmest and their trickiest. At Troon there were always shouts and sounds drifting in from the beach on a mild breeze and cries from the seagulls above, considering their next theft of food from the day-trippers.
Again, this is most likely selective memory. In the west of Scotland, it was probably just slightly warmer rain at that time of year.
But one thing for certain, is that August is about playing golf, not watching it. In particular now it is the month where professional golf takes it easy for a while. Curling up for a summer snooze, exhausted by the exertions of July.
Yes, The Women’s British Open does creep into the very start of August, but that ends a frantic run which culminates in The Open, The Senior Open, The Evian Masters and The Women’s Open in successive weeks. Thereafter, with the US PGA’s move, the last of the summer months feels rather empty.
“This is NONSENSE. What about THE FEDEX CUP?’’ you cry, throwing your magazine into the bin in disgust. Before your partner reminds your that it has to go into the recycling. The BLUE bin, not the green one. How many times do I have to tell you? Well, the truth is, I don’t care a jot about the FedEx Cup. Discovering which multi-millionaire golfer wins more multi-millions doesn’t do anything for me.
Things will certainly pick up in September, with two great team events in the Solheim Cup and Walker Cup, as well as the BMW PGA in its new slot at Wentworth. But I do sometimes wish there were a more balanced feel to the golfing calendar. How nice it would be if there were something to look forward to in the long, fallow time before April finally comes around again.
Perhaps you feel the Race to Dubai is worth waiting for, but that’s not my cup of tea either and if you tell me you can’t wait for the drama of The Presidents Cup then I will phone the doctor on your behalf. But at least that biennial contest, between The USA and the snappily titled Rest-of-the-World excluding- Europe, is late this year, in December, and takes place at Royal Melbourne, one of the world’s great courses.
And it hints at a missed opportunity in the Majors and what might have been. After all, the Majors are what matter and what golf fans really care about. And as it stands they are crammed into a few months and, mostly, crammed into one country.
Take tennis as a comparison, which has a fairer spread and more even distribution. The great winter beacon in that sport is, of course, The Australian Open. So perhaps you can perhaps see where I’m going with this. An Australian Open elevated to Major status would be superb – on any one of the great courses that they have.
Granted it might not be ideal, time-zone wise, for the markets of the United States or Europe, but it would certainly help showcase golf as a sport of the wider world. And of course it would offer a more even spread for the pros and a more credible incentive in the winter months. There is only so much time you can spend snorkelling in the Bahamas before it gets tedious. Or so I’m told.
I’m not suggesting there should be five Majors in the men’s game – I think adding another simply devalues them all slightly. But with three currently staged in the USA they can surely afford to lose one. Just let the US PGA be relegated. The West Bromwich Albion of Major golf.
Of course, all this is really just wishful thinking – we know it’s not going to happen. The United States rules all in golfing terms and will not accept a Major in what they consider a distant, dusty land which is only notable for occasionally sending them products like wool and Hugh Jackman.
But for now just continue to enjoy all the Majors as they are, stuffed into what feels like a frantic five-month window. We, and the pros, will just put up with our imbalanced, imperfect golfing calendar.
And besides, if it means there is one summer month where we are not glued to our televisions then all the better.
This time of year should always be far more about getting out and playing golf than watching it – so perhaps it is best to take advantage of these Major-free days, steadfastly ignore the FedEx Cup and take yourself out to play. A time to create your own golfing memories..