By Ken MacLeod
Media outlets including Global Golf Post are reporting that the PGA of America will announce the switch of the PGA Championship from August to May during its pre-tournament press conference Tuesday at Quail Hollow, site of the 2017 PGA Championship.
It is expected the switch will begin as soon as 2019, which could affect the upcoming 2021 Senior PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club and the PGA Championship, which has been confirmed but no date announced as yet. There is also speculation that the 2021 Senior PGA will be able to keep its date in May.
Both Southern Hills General Manager Nick Sidorakis and superintendent Russ Myers have said previously that Southern Hills should have no problem from an agronomic standpoint having a PGA Championship in May, even though the course fairways and roughs consist primarily of Bermuda grass, which thrives in hot weather so long as it is receiving sufficient moisture.
The Senior PGA Championship is currently held in May, but will likely move back in the calendar, perhaps even switching dates with the PGA Championship. That will be one of the more interesting details to be revealed.
Tulsa has hosted four previous PGA Championships in 1970, 1982, 1994 and 2001. All were played in hot weather, with extreme temperatures in 1982 and 2007 of more than 100 degrees. However, if the PGA Championship were in Tulsa this week, temperatures are not expected to exceed 90 degrees all week, with a high on Sunday of 84.
The switch has been long discussed as a solution for several chronic issues with the PGA Tour schedule. With the advent of golf in the Olympics, there would be a conflict with the PGA Championship every four years. In addition, many feel the golf calendar is too long and the PGA Tour is eager to have its playoff events move into August and not compete with college and professional football, for both an attendance and particularly television rating standpoint. That would leave only events such as the Ryder Cup and President’s Cup, which can hold their own from a ratings standpoint, being held during football season.
Switching the PGA Championship to May opens the doors to sites in Arizona and other desert climates that are considered too hot in August. Northeast and northwest sites with cool season grasses may still be cool at that time of year, but the issue with grasses is more one for sites such as Southern Hills or other transition zone courses that use warm weather grasses and are just coming into their own in May. Still, barring a series of late freezes, highly skilled superintendents such as Myers have no issues preparing a course for major championship conditions at that time of year.
While Southern Hills would lose some of its thick Bermuda rough in May it could make up for it in firmer, faster greens than pros have experienced previously. Golfers are also much more likely to have to deal with strong winds in May than in August.
“Whatever time of year we have a major championship, we’ll be ready,” Myers said today. “If you’re not in August, you give up four-inch rough, but the PGA of America didn’t want the rough that long anyway. You should have firmer greens in May, but that depends on whether you have a bunch of rain that week. Either way, whatever comes, we’ll make it work and be excited to present Southern Hills in championship condition.”
Sidorakis was traveling today to the 2017 PGA Championship. Golf Oklahoma will catch up with him once the announcement is official.