The only certainty is that the “Labor Day tradition” involving TPC Boston is done after next year.
The PGA Tour’s decision to end the season by Labor Day — before the sporting behemoth of the NFL begins in earnest — means that Norton will no longer be the center of the golfing universe for a week once the 2018 Dell Technologies Championship is played.
This past week’s announcement of the change was expected, but also left many unanswered questions. The biggest, for the folks around TPC Boston and for all New England golf fans, is what the future holds for the Dell Technologies Championship. Will the PGA Tour continue to visit Norton starting in 2019?
Here are three scenarios from my viewpoint:
1. Best-case scenario — playoffs continue
Right now, the Dell Technologies Championship (remember, it’s no longer the Deutsche Bank Championship) is the second of four legs in the FedEx Cup playoffs. The other events are held, in order, in New York, Chicago and Atlanta.
One of the things being discussed by the PGA Tour is shortening the playoffs from four events to three. If that happens, the bigger markets of New York and Chicago are likely to prevail, plus the tour probably doesn’t want all the playoffs being contested on the East Coast. And it’s extremely unlikely that the tour will boot Atlanta. The tour is going to want to continue playing at the East Lake Club, home course for one of the most revered figures in the game, Bobby Jones. And the sponsor for the Tour Championship is Coca-Cola, which is based in Atlanta.
The tour may want to continue conducting four playoff events, which would move the Dell Technologies Championship to the second or third week in August. Working in TPC Boston’s favor is that Dell Technologies has a very close relationship with the tour, sponsoring the Dell Technologies Match Play in the spring. But the players seem to be pushing to reduce the playoff schedule, and they usually get their way.
2. Worst-cast scenario – farewell, Dell
On the other hand, Dell may decide that one tournament is enough. The tour needs to eliminate two or three events to make this work (or at least shift them to the low-visibility fall schedule) so Dell may step forward and offer to end the TPC Boston event. Or Dell and the tour could work out some other arrangement, such as…
3. Likely scenario – a midsummer classic
Shifting the Dell Technologies Championship seems to midsummer seems to be what may be in the works. The tour doesn’t want to abandon the Boston market again, especially after building up a pretty strong following since returning in 2003.
There reportedly has been talks of shifting the Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia from its mid-July spot to the fall schedule. No offense to the “Almost Heaven State,” but there’s a lot bigger audience – and more money – in Boston and Providence.
Another possibility would be shifting the Dell Technologies to just after the Travelers Championship — the first PGA Tour event after the U.S. Open. That event, of course, is held outside Hartford, Conn., making for easy travel for the players, the networks and the entire tour circus.
That would mean our local PGA Tour event would have to work hard to attract the game’s top players, just like most tournaments do. To paraphrase Rick Pitino, golf’s top 100 players are unlikely to be walking through that door any time.
As a result, local golf spectators may be coming to the end of a golden age, so to speak. But will a PGA Tour event disappear from TPC Boston? I doubt it.