The miss-you moment has passed.
The PGA Tour offseason – both weeks of it – has come and gone, vanishing in the late summer heat that has squelched the onset of pumpkin-spice season.
So much has happened since the tour season ended.
Dustin Johnson had his left knee scoped. Tiger Woods had his left knee scoped and he attended the U.S. Open tennis championship. Rickie Fowler announced he is taking an 11-week break which includes his wedding.
So much to unpack and it’s already time for A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier?
That sounds like a parade or the theme of a Fourth of July event but it’s the kickoff to the 2019-20 season, a run that begins in the West Virginia mountains and will end in Atlanta 11 months from now, just before kickoff to the next college football season.
It’s an admittedly soft start to the new tour season, and if you’re unfamiliar with the bulk of the field playing at the Greenbrier this week, you’re excused. The fall is potentially a make-or-break stretch for many of the graduates of the Korn Ferry Tour, whose new PGA Tour cards don’t come with guaranteed starts in the most glamorous events.
That makes this a big week for Sebastian Cappelen, Michael Gellerman, Harry Higgs, Chase Seiffert and Rafael Campos, among others, players whose names aren’t yet familiar but could be if they can get opportunity and performance to intersect at the Greenbrier or another week this fall.
There is probably a discussion to be had regarding the tour’s insistence on ending its season before football gets cranked up while beginning a new season that runs for 11 weeks (12 if you count the Presidents Cup in December this year) through the heart of football season but let’s put that away for the time being.
The fall portion of the tour’s season has no major championships and one World Golf Championship played in China, and it lacks the resonance that marks the tour season once the calendar turns as images from Maui flicker across television screens in early January.
But the fall portion of the PGA Tour season does matter, perhaps more than ever.
There are too many tournaments and too many FedEx Cup points available for players to ignore the fall schedule. The days of showing up to start the season in March, as Greg Norman used to do at Doral when he was No. 1 in the world, are essentially over.
With the game now truly global, players are staying busy through the fall, even if they’re not playing as often or in instantly familiar spots like they do in the spring and summer.
There are too many events, too much depth, too much at stake to go quiet for so long. With the game now truly global, players are staying busy through the fall, even if they’re not playing as often or in instantly familiar spots like they do in the spring and summer.
While the top players may make themselves relatively scarce through the end of the year – Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose are among those staying busy deep into the fall – they aren’t in complete hibernation.
When the tour makes its three-week run through South Korea, Japan and China, many of the top players in the game will be there. Brooks Koepka won in South Korea last year, Justin Thomas has made himself at home in Asia and Tiger will tee it up in the new Zozo Championship in Japan after playing a skins game over there.
Before then, the PGA Tour gives the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi its own week for the first time, stops in Napa and Las Vegas and returns to Houston with a new venue. Bermuda is on the schedule for players not qualified for the WGC event in Shanghai, then Mayakoba, Sea Island and Tiger’s exclusive event in the Bahamas will round out the fall with the Presidents Cup in Australia still out there.
What to watch for over the next few months?
- How will Tiger play when he goes to Japan, and how will that impact his decision whether to make himself a playing captain for the Presidents Cup?
- Will Jordan Spieth, who may play a handful of times, build on his late-season trend and end his two-plus years winless spell?
- Will Brooks Koepka show up in Asia and solidify his world No. 1 ranking?
- Which of the new stars – Matthew Wolff, Collin Morikawa or Viktor Hovland – will get off to the fastest start?
- Or, will it be someone else, maybe Xander Schauffele, who uses the fall to set them up for 2020?
The West Coast swing is still four months away, the Florida swing is six months away, and let’s not even think about azaleas right now.
The PGA Tour will get there soon enough. The road to all those places and more begins again – now.
Kevin Na is on hand this week to defend his title at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier. Photo: Rob Carr, Getty Images
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