Tensions anticipated over plan to move US PGA to accommodate Olympics

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The PGA of America may be on a collision course over plans to move the US PGA Championship permanently. It is understood moves are afoot to switch the major to the final week in May, which would conflict directly with one of the European Tour’s key events, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

The return of golf to the Olympics and the willingness of those within the sport to be flexible with regard scheduling is likely to mean significant changes before 2020. The Players Championship is set to switch back from May to March, allowing the US PGA to become the second major of the year, thereby alleviating the congestion which occurred this year after July’s Open Championship at Troon. There is a rising feeling that the US PGA’s appeal is diminished by its proximity to the Open.

The initial sense was that the US PGA change would have been only in Olympic years. However, the PGA of America’s chief executive, Pete Bevacqua, pointed towards a permanent move.

“We are huge proponents of the Olympics,” he told the Golf Channel. “That’s something that, with our peer organisations in the game – the PGA Tour, the USGA, the R&A, and the European Tour – everyone has to share in the burden of what the schedule is going to look like in an Olympic year. We are all about the Olympics but we also have to protect the PGA Championship and we can’t just bounce the PGA Championship around every four years. To truly make it work, to make it succeed and to make sure golf is in the Olympics for the next century, the whole schedule needs to be adjusted.”

A US PGA Championship in May would cause problems for venues because of the climate in the north-east of the country. It would, however, increase the chances for alternatives elsewhere.

The impact of that would be felt on the opposite side of the Atlantic. Last week, the BMW PGA Championship was confirmed as part of the European Tour’s Rolex Series with an enhanced prize fund of $7m from 2017. A clash with the US PGA Championship, or even proximity to it, would cause obvious problems.

“We have had dialogue with the PGA of America on this issue and we will continue to do so,” a spokesperson for the European Tour said.

The European Tour’s relationship with Wentworth was complicated by a recent change of ownership. Reignwood, which bought the club in 2014, enraged a chunk of its membership with the introduction of exorbitant fees. As that row rumbled on through lawyers, the Wentworth Residents’ Committee threatened to disrupt the BMW PGA Championship.

Keith Pelley, the European Tour’s chief executive, also caused controversy by stating that the BMW PGA Championship was no longer the flagship competition of his organisation. That clashed with what had always been the Tour’s stance, while raising a question as to whether or not BMW would extend its sponsorship agreement.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ewan Murray, for The Guardian on Tuesday 22nd November 2016 17.42 Europe/London

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