The early-season PGA Tour schedule is loaded, but it is also a bit of a mess. Here is what the five weeks leading up to the 2017 Masters looks like from a scheduling standpoint.
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Arnold Palmer Invitational
WGC-Match Play Championship
Because of the packed schedule, and because players can’t play every week, picking and choosing which tournaments to skip and which to play is difficult. You would expect the year after Arnold Palmer’s death to result in a monstrous turnout at the tournament after which he is named, right? That’s not really happening. Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson will all skip the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which leaves Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama and Jason Day as the headliners.
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The problem here is the Masters and the WGC-Match Play Championship. A lot of golfers like to play the week before the Masters, so if they play Houston and the Match Play, that would be three straight tournaments leading down Magnolia Lane. That is not what a lot of guys have in mind. Fowler recently told the Associated Press that he’s considering skipping the WGC-Match Play Championship despite its automatic Official World Golf Rankings points and prize money just to play in Palmer’s event. It would be awesome to see an outpouring of elite golfers at this tournament because of what Palmer meant to the game, but the schedule unfortunately does not make that easily attainable. Of course, there is still the matter of Tiger Woods.
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Big Cat has won this tournament eight times and could still enter by this Friday, although I do not expect that to happen. As for the long-term health of the tournament, API tournament director Marci Doyle told Golf Digest that she is confident turnout will continue. We know it’s equally if not more important to maintain the relationship, respect, and interest of the Tour players beyond this year,” Doyle told Golf Digest. “We have been putting a number of elements in place as a long-term strategy, in order to plan for [Palmer’s] legacy well beyond his lifetime.” Maybe the PGA Tour can aid in the future by moving it to a more accessible date for its stars.