Each of the eight 2015 PGA Tour events on the West Coast swing are booked. In effect, the WGC-Match Play Championship has been squeezed off the schedule.
Yet at the ongoing Players Championship, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said, “Where we’re going is an open question; certainly, Tucson is a possibility.”
But is it really?
After the final 2015 West Coast stop, the Feb. 18-22 Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles, the tour begins its Florida swing Feb. 25-March 1 at the Honda Classic.
What’s more, Gerald Goodman, for three years executive director of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, has been hired by the PGA Tour to operate the Champions Tour’s Legends of Golf event June 4-8 and relocate to Branson, Missouri.
The only potential opening on the 2015 PGA Tour calendar is May 14-17, following the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
That would not likely work in Tucson because the average high temperature on May 14 is 92, and it often can be over 100 here by that time.
Unable to find a sponsor willing to pay as much as $12 million a year to be an umbrella sponsor for a WGC event, the PGA Tour will probably not stage a Match Play event in 2015.
The Tucson Conquistadores have been assured they will play host to a pro golf event in ’15, and have the ability to select a March stop on the Champions Tour, possibly at Omni Tucson National.
The upside to a Champions Tour event is a two-day Pro Am, which can generate tens of thousands of dollars for charities. It would also appeal to the Southern Arizona demographic of over-50 golf fans.
For now, Finchem’s options are limited.
If he signs a sponsor, one of the possibilities is to encumber the weakest of the West Coast events, the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, California, on Jan. 22-25, by scheduling the Match Play simultaneously in Tucson, or elsewhere.
More likely, by 2016, he will build an entirely new Match Play event, with a format that does not include first-day eliminations.
After eight years, Dove Mountain should get the first crack at a chance to play host to a new-and-improved Match Play format, but that’s not often the way it works in pro sports.
Once the PGA Tour finds a replacement for Accenture, money — not sentimentality — will talk.