Luke Elvy: Does the PGA have 2020 Vision?

The PGA of America is due to make official its decision to award Harding Park the 2020 PGA Championship later this week. For San Francisco and the west coast of America it’s a great result, for the rest of the world, particularly the Asia-Pacific region that Australia is a part of, it isn’t.

An opportunity to take the fourth major global was missed, which upset the legendary Gary Player.

Gary Player Gary Player called the PGA of America’s decision “pathetic”

The 9-time major champion responded angrily to a tweet sent by Augusta Chronicle golf writer Scott Michaux about the PGA’s impending announcement late last week. Here’s the exchange…

“With ’20 PGA Championship heading to Harding Park seems the vision was lost for international trip to @RoyalMelb. Pity. Coulda (sic) been great.” tweeted Scott Michaux (@ScottMichaux)

“Actually a pathetic decision as golf is more global than ever and this is the weakest of all four majors. Shame.” responded Gary Player (@garyplayer)

Strong words from one of the game’s global ambassadors and two-time PGA Champion. No doubt they‘ll be bouncing through the PGA’s headquarters in Palm Beach, Florida… one can only guess how much impact they had.

The PGA of America first floated the idea of taking its showpiece event globally just prior to last year’s championship at Oak Hill. It had the golf world buzzing and the concept received praise amongst the masses, especially those who think outside the box.

With three of the four Men’s majors played on U.S. soil, moving the PGA offshore every so often appeared to be a great point of difference for the event that Player described as “the weakest of all four.” Especially on those years, which clash with the Olympic games, now that golf is part of the summer spectacle.

Australia’s jewel Royal Melbourne was a strong favourite to host the 2020 event if it was to be contested outside the United States. Not only is it a world-class course, it has proven time and again to be a tremendous tournament venue.

And given Australia is the only nation in the fledgling region with a rich history in golf, it seemed an appropriate place to start especially as Tokyo will host the Olympics. But as ‘expressions of interest’ came from all parts of the globe, it was by no means a certainty.

However, for it to be a reality there were more than a few hurdles to clear. There are a number of tournament partners to consider; the players, sponsors etc, most significantly though is the broadcast partner.

As TV rights count for a major slice of the championship’s revenue, any decision would have to be run by them – currently CBS have the rights. A change of time zone would undoubtedly impact ratings and a loss of ratings would ultimately impact revenue, a bad outcome for all involved, especially now live sport is big business in the television world.

There’s no doubt Asia is important in the future of golf, but the question remains, when? Greg Norman said back in 2010, “that East would dominate West in 20 years.” For that to be a reality the region, would have to host a major on a regular basis, something that remains in the PGA of America’s control.

Join the conversation online with Luke Elvy at @elvisgolf