Day Of Firsts: Harding Park Gets Its Major, PGA's Unite!

The Kumbaya vibes were off the charts as the PGA Tour, PGA of America, the San Francisco Mayor's office and everyone else with a hand in the deals harrumphed all things Harding Park. Confirmation came of a 2015 WGC Match Play, a 2020 PGA Championship and a 2025 Presidents Cup, assuming that last event hasn't succumbed to the diseases of Korea and Liberty National and whatever almost ideal place they take the Cup.


"Today is an announcement of a lot of firsts," Finchem said during Wednesday's ceremonies. "The first time that the PGA TOUR and the PGA have announced a series of events that are coordinated in this kind of fashion. It's the first time that these three particular events will be played at the same venue."

“TPC Harding Park is a world-class facility and San Francisco is a mecca of the best sports, cultural and entertainment events the world has to offer, so today’s exciting announcement only serves to further the City’s stature in that respect, and is a wonderful extension of our long-standing partnership with the PGA TOUR,” Lee said.

Ron Kroichick explored the possibility of the Match Play becoming a regular thing and the city sounded skeptical it could handle the excitement, while the PGA Of America hopes to make Harding a once-a-decade stop if things go well. First off though, getting Mayor Lepetomaine to get the tournaments straight would help.

Today’s news conference survived one awkward moment, during Mayor Ed Lee’s opening remarks. He referred to the “Players Championship,” not the PGA Championship, coming to Harding in 2020. Casual fans might not realize the difference, but Lee’s misstep caused PGA of America president Ted Bishop — standing only a few feet away — to squirm.

While I didn't see a month mentioned for the 2020 PGA and no one cares about the 2025 Presidents Cup, the match play timing could have been interesting but now (thankfully) appears to be a one-off.

David Scott explains how the Wells Fargo Championship and host Quail Hollow will go after The Players in 2015 to accomodate a one-time match play in May.

It is unclear when the Match Play, which will take place at San Francisco’s Harding Park municipal course April 29-May 3 2015, will be scheduled in future years.

The switch means the Wells Fargo will be played the week after the Players Championship, the tour’s most prestigious non-major tournament, rather than the week before the Players as it has since 2007.
Hougham said he didn’t expect the change to adversely affect the Wells Fargo’s field.

“It just means there are going to be three great weeks of golf – the Match Play, the Players, the Wells Fargo – leading up to the U.S. Open,” said Hougham.

Commissioner Moonbeam made pretty clear that May 2015 is a one-time deal for the Match Play and that  anchoring the West Coast Swing is still the priority, as it should be for the health of the swing that gets the biggest ratings and needs the Match Play to cap off the early part of the season.

Jeff Rude had all sorts of good stuff in this roundup of the announcement, including this about the robust month of May, 2015.

2. The May schedule on the 2015 PGA Tour is so packed with important tournaments, there’s no way everyone can be happy, particularly when considering the European Tour’s flagship event (BMW PGA) is in the mix. Not that anything this side of inner peace or free money can make everyone happy.

It has been held on Week 8 of the Tour schedule, ending the West Coast Swing. The Tour is said to want to return to that date again starting in 2016.

Kroichick also explored how all of this came together and as with most things in high-level golf, good wine, great views and a politician's visit went to their heads. Oh, and the awareness that it’s really time to stop taking the PGA Championship to midwest sweat boxes.

They joined tour executives for dinner in May at Epic Roasthouse, along the Embarcadero. The group sat outside on a warm, glorious night and talked about Harding’s revival. Pete Bevacqua and Kerry Haigh, high-ranking officials from the PGA of America, had seats facing the bridge. The mayor stopped by to say hello.

Meetings the next day included views of the Golden Gate Bridge on another sparkling spring day. Then came a drive on the Great Highway, to take a first-hand look at the course.

It's a romantic comedy! Execs drink, dine, see the sun in San Francisco, drive PCH and get hitched with Harding Park. Coming to a theater near you in May, 2020.

As for the format, this story tells us what we mostly already knew, with some clarifications:

Going forward, the 64-player Match  Play Championship field will be divided into 16 four-player groups. Each group will play round-robin matches within their group on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The player with the best record in each of the four groups advances to the Round of 16 for single-elimination match play (in the event of a two-way tie in a group, head-to-head results will be used as the tiebreaker; a three-way tie will require a sudden-death playoff). The Round of 16 will be played Saturday morning, followed by the Quarterfinals Saturday afternoon. The Semifinals will be Sunday morning, followed by the Championship Match and Consolation Match on Sunday afternoon.