In professional golf, where very little is constant from one year to the next (ask Tiger Woods), here’s something that seemingly has been:
The PGA Tour starting its season in Hawaii.
For 13 years, you’ve been able to set your DVR by it.
With the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and Sony Open in Hawaii being the coveted leadoff events since 1999, the “Aloha Swing” has had the considerable benefit of built-in branding. Mainland fans Jonesing for a glimpse of golf after a long winter or wanting to check out the emerging contenders and debuting rookies got it with shots of Maui and Oahu shorelines in the background.
But beginning in the 2014 season, when the PGA Tour calendar is redrawn, Hawaii will lose its opening niche to California, becoming another stop along the long road. The fourth or fifth of the season, perhaps.
And, that should be cause for concern unless the PGA Tour works creatively to keep Hawaii from losing more than its spot in the lineup.
Plans announced Tuesday call for the 2013 PGA Tour season to end with the Tour Championship in late September and then kick off the 2014 campaign in mid-October 2013.
Or, as J. B. Holmes told the media Tuesday, “So, we’re going to end the season in September, then basically start it again a week later?”
Yes, and then, after a few tournaments, will come a December break. And, then, Hawaii.
For the PGA Tour, an outfit trying to stay out of the NFL shadow, it is a curious way to go about things. But it is apparently crafted, in part, to make sponsors of fall tournaments happier.
What it will do for those in Hawaii will likely depend in large part on how the PGA Tour addresses eligibility for the Hyundai. The bigger the field and more compelling the reasons to play the better for Hawaii.
But if eligibility remains similar to what it is now and the decline in marquee participants continues, there will be problems.
“The whole issue is that it is no longer the start to the season, it is going to be five events or however many into the year already, so, in my mind, that begs for restructuring the eligibility (for Hyundai),” said Mark Rolfing, an NBC and Golf Channel commentator and Kapalua resident.
Participation in the Hyundai is on a winners-only basis and recently too many have chosen, for various reasons, to bypass the event and the Sony that follows. Phil Mickelson hasn’t played since 2001. Woods has been a no-show since 2005 and they aren’t alone. Eleven players — nearly a third of the eligible Hyundai field — bypassed the event in 2012.
“I’m in favor of, at least, having all the players who are in the Tour Championship, that’s the top 30, be eligible (for Hyundai),” Rolfing said.
Hawaii Tourism Authority brand and sports manager Michael Story said, “We’ve billed ourselves as the kickoff and that’s been good. But, at the same time, what if we look at it this other way and see how the players react to an earlier start? Will we get a different field?”
The hope and, indeed, the necessity is that in recasting its schedule, the PGA Tour finds a way for Hawaii’s tournaments to gain ground, not lose more of it.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.