When the PGA Tour negotiated its last TV deal in 2001, Tigermania was all the rage -- which inspired the networks and cable channels to pony up $850 million over four years -- or 50% more than they had paid in the preceding four-year deal. But with golf ratings on the decline since 2001, the networks say they're losing money.
So with the Tour and the networks poised to sit down in coming months to negotiate their next four-year deal, the PGA Tour is contemplating a shakeup of its existing schedule in hopes of convincing broadcasters to keep paying the big bucks. Here's BusinessWeek's best guess as to how the PGA Tour schedule might look when its next TV contract begins in 2007, based on interviews with TV executives, tournament directors, and various industry consultants. Changes from the current lineup are highlighted in bold-faced type.
Jan. 4-7 -- Mercedes Championships
Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii
No significant changes are likely in the early part of the Tour season. The sponsorships are solid, Hawaii is the perfect venue for January, and California makes for a natural progression back toward the East.
Jan. 11-14 -- Sony Open in Hawaii
Jan. 18-21 -- Buick Invitational
La Jolla, Calif.
Jan. 24-28 -- Bob Hope Chrysler Classic
La Quinta, Calif.
Feb. 1-4 -- FBR Open
Feb. 8-11 -- AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Pebble Beach, Calif.
Feb. 15-18 -- Nissan Open
Despite Nissan's unhappiness with seeing its sponsorship dollars sometimes washed out by the heavy rains that seem to hit California this time of year, it seems a given that the tour will stay in Los Angeles in February.
Feb. 21-25 -- WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
The La Costa Resort seems to have grown weary of hosting the first World Golf Championship event of the season -- in part because it's too disruptive for its lucrative resort business. It's possible that the tournament could move to Tucson, which has in recent years hosted an alternative tournament the same week for Tour players who didn't qualify for the WGC.
Mar. 1-4 -- Ford Championship at Doral
Thanks to Ford's sponsorship and an industrious tournament staff, this has become a popular event with players.
Mar. 8-11 -- The Honda Classic
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Mar. 15-18 -- Bay Hill Invitational
Some players quietly grumble over the difficulty of the course and the relative lack of amenities, but this is Arnold Palmer's clambake, and as long as Arnie is around, the tour will keep coming back to Bay Hill.
Mar. 22-25 -- WGC-American Express Championship
With the Tour shifting the Players Championship to May, this creates an opening that could be filled by shifting the World Golf Championship event currently held in October. If the tour decides to stay in Florida during March, then Tampa could become the host city.
Mar. 29-Apr. 1 -- BellSouth Classic
Apr. 5-8 -- The Masters
Apr. 12-15 -- MCI Heritage
Hilton Head, S.C.
Apr. 19-22 -- Shell Houston Open
Apr. 26-29 -- Valero Texas Open
The PGA Tour could move the tourney from its September slot into the week previously occupied by New Orleans, which, given the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, could be a casualty for the next several years. Another option is to move the EDS Byron Nelson Championship into this slot.
May 3-6 -- The Players Championship
Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
The tourney -- considered to be the "fifth major" by many players -- has long suffered from the rainy March weather in Florida -- and the head-on competition from the NCAA basketball tournament. Moving it to May provides the networks with a strong anchor tournament for May.
May 10-13 -- Wachovia Championship
The tour once abandoned Charlotte for Washington, D.C., but now the Charlotte stop has become a "must play" tournament for stars like Woods and Mickelson thanks to a challenging course (Quail Hollow) and the pampering provided by host Wachovia (which one year flew the players' wives to Asheville for a day at the Biltmore Estate). This could flip dates with the Players Championship, but the question remains whether Tour officials want the Players Championship to be played over Mother's Day weekend.
May 17-20 -- EDS Byron Nelson Championship
May 24-27 -- Bank of America Colonial
Fort Worth, Tex.
May 31-June 3 -- The Memorial Tournament
June 7-10 -- Booz Allen Classic
June 14-17 -- U.S. Open
June 21-24 -- FedEx St. Jude Classic
Now played in May, the Memphis tournament could move to mid-June and fill the slot opened when the Barclays Classic moves to August or September.
June 28-July 1 -- The International
Castle Rock, Colo.
The International has been lobbying for a better date than its current August slot, and the second week after the U.S. Open could be a possibility. Or it could flip dates with the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
July 5-8 -- Buick Open
Grand Blanc, Mich.
Now played in late July, the Buick Open could move on the calendar to help clear room for the new "Fall Chase" playoff.
July 12-15 -- U.S. Bank Championship
or John Deere Classic
Though a small-market tournament, the John Deere has become a player favorite. Hey, where else do you get to try your hand at driving an earthmover on practice day? The question is which of these two tournaments will occupy this slot -- and which will be played the next week, opposite the British Open?
July 19-22 -- British Open
U.S. Bank Championship
or John Deere Classic
The B.C. Open, which has long been played the same week as the British Open -- thus featuring players who didn't qualify for the British -- could be a casualty. Either the U.S. Bank Championship or John Deere Classic could become the new opposite-field tourney.
July 26-29 -- Bell Canadian Open
Another September tourney that gets moved up to clear a path for the "Fall Chase" playoff events. Could trade weeks with the 84 Lumber Classic.
Aug. 2-5 -- 84 Lumber Classic
Another small-market tournament that has become a player favorite, thanks to the hospitality of 84 Lumber chieftain Joe Hardy, who last year chartered a private plane to fly players to the British Open the next week. Could flip weeks here with the WGC-Bridgestone, but the PGA Tour has shown a propensity to schedule smaller tournaments the week before a major as an accommodation to star players who want an extra week to prepare for the major.
Aug. 9-12 -- PGA Championship
Aug. 16-19 -- World Golf Championship
Aug. 23-26 -- Deutsche Bank Championship
This week would mark the start of the new three-week "Fall Chase" -- a series of three tournaments where players who have accrued the most points by this time in the season play a "tournament within a tournament." The highest finishers in the first week advance on to the second week, with the ultimate winner earning a bonus payout. The exact order of the Boston, New York, and Chicago tournaments isn't known.
Aug. 31-Sept. 3 -- Barclays Classic
Sept. 6-9 -- Cialis Western Open
Sept. 13-16 -- The Tour Championship
Sept. 27-30 -- Presidents Cup
In even-numbered years, this week would be held for the Ryder Cup.
After this, the PGA Tour is planning a series of events designed for second- and third-tier players scrambling to earn enough money to guarantee their eligibility for the next year's events. The tournaments will likely be held in cities that have traditionally hosted fall events, but the details are unclear.