Mid-May is such a great time to be a sports fan in DFW. The Rangers are in action. In the past, the Mavericks and Stars have been involved in long playoff runs (and hopefully will be again soon), and the PGA Tour makes its yearly two week swing through Irving and Ft. Worth.
The tournaments are worth your time if for no other reason that they both raise of ton of money for charity, so the beer and merchandise you buy helps send dollars to the right places, all the while watching the very best at what they do.
The Byron Nelson and Colonial Tournaments have been somewhat hurt in recent years by their placement on the PGA Tour schedule. For years, mid-May was a perfect time for the tournaments, and they really were stand alone events between the Masters in April and the U.S. Open in June. The presence of Byron, and the aura of Ben Hogan simply made it so. But the Tour changed its calendar several years ago, and it did the Metroplex events no favors. The Tour wanted to get the Players Championship away from the NCAA Basketball Championship in March, and thus moved it to the week formerly occupied by the Nelson. The week before that, the Tour added an event in Charlotte, at Quail Hollow, a course universally admired by players (and which will be the home of the 2017 PGA Championship). And then behind the two DFW tournaments, you have Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament. There are few who are going to say no to Jack (and his baby, Muirfield Village).
So how do the Nelson and Colonial, regain relevance from the Tour? For that matter how do they regain relevance to the casual DFW sports fan who wants to see the stars on the course, but who don’t get to see as many as they they’d like?
Dallas Morning News Columnist Rick Gosselin brought an interesting argument to the table the other day when he suggested that, with the corporate muscle of AT&T now fronting the Nelson, that it move to a fall date and become a part of the FedEx Cup playoff. As DFW is likely to never again, host a U.S. Open or PGA Championship, this would be the best way to raise the profile of the Nelson by bringing in the very best players of the year. Of course that wouldn’t get them Tiger Woods this year because of his back surgery, but since Tiger hasn’t played the Nelson since 2005 (and hasn’t played Colonial since 1997), perhaps this is the way to get him back.
Still, while fall is really the best time to play golf in Texas, any PGA Tour event (even with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, or, choose your future star, like Rory McIlroy or Jordan Spieth) is going to play a very distant second fiddle to football. We saw in the early 80’s when the LPGA played at Bent Tree that it didn’t matter how good the field was (and those fields were among the very strongest on Tour), trying to compete with the Cowboys, Longhorns, Aggies etc. was a recipe for failure. Indeed, the only way golf could compete in September is if somehow the Ryder Cup could make its way to Texas. The star power of that event is undeniable.
But that doesn’t solve the problem of the Nelson, as a full field event, or Colonial. May remains the best time to play, but short of moving Charlotte, or The Players around, both tournaments are going to have an uphill fight for the hearts and minds of both the die hard golf fans, and the casual ones as well. And that’s a shame.