If you are looking for Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth or Phil Mickelson playing during the PGA Tour’s so-called Florida swing, you’re not going to find them.
Blame it on the Tour schedule this year. None of those three players will tee it up in any of the Florida events.
There was a time when the Florida swing felt like the unofficial start to the Tour season. Not any more. Not this year, anyway.
The reason doesn’t have as much to do with Florida as it does with the Tour’s current schedule. Rather than playing four consecutive weeks in Florida, the schedule goes to the Honda Classic in West Palm Beach, Fla., bounced over to the WGC-Mexico Championship in Mexico City and now has a Florida doubleheader with the Valspar Championship near Tampa and the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.
Beyond that comes the WGC-Dell Match Play in Austin, Texas, the Shell Houston Open and that little toonamint in Augusta.
The Masters, as you might imagine, factors heavily into the scheduling of the top players. Many of them like to play their way into Augusta so they make Houston a pre-Masters stop. Most of the top players also will play the Match Play, though Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Justin Rose and perhaps Rickie Fowler will take a pass on Austin.
That’s three weeks in a row from Austin through Augusta.
All the top players showed up in Mexico City because it was a World Golf Championship event, meaning if they’re going to get some down time, it’s coming during the Florida swing.
It means some top players will skip the first Bay Hill event without Arnold Palmer. It’s not an easy decision for many of them but their priority is to find a schedule they feel benefits them.
Jack Nicklaus pointed out the scheduling dilemma while looking at a Honda Classic field without any of the top six players in the world.
It would help if the WGC-Mexico Championship were played the week after the Genesis Open in Los Angeles, allowing the three Florida events (there were four tournaments forever in the Sunshine State until the WGC event left Doral) to be played in succession.
That may be coming in the future but this year, it leaves Florida with its famous sunshine but lacking some of its traditional star power.