PGA Tour Confidential: The New Big Four, A Royal Portrush PGA Championship and the Best Hole in Golf

Royal Portrush
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Royal Portrush hosted the 2012 Irish Open.

3. The abbreviated portion of the PGA Tour's new 2013-14 wraparound schedule has now concluded. We next get a six-week hiatus from official PGA Tour events. Was this new wrinkle a worthy experiment, a dismal failure or somewhere in between?

VAN SICKLE: The experiment is not about whether fans watched on TV or cared about the events. It was about finding sponsorship dollars. More players from the top 125 money list teed it up in the fall events than before, leaving a chunk of the new Q-school grads with no place to play, so from those aspects, it was a success.

PASSOV: I'm not convinced this setup was one ounce more compelling than the old Fall Series. To me, it just confuses matters going forward. If the PGA Tour slotted another four sanctioned, automatic-Masters-invite events, I might feel differently, but this momentum-killing break is ludicrous.

SHIPNUCK: I think it was a worthy experiment. If nothing else, it created a strong Asian swing, an important colonization for the PGA Tour and a boon to late-night TV viewers here in the U.S. And tourneys like the Frys and the McGladrey were charming in their small scale: out-of-the-way venues, no big stars, and just pure golf for hard-core fans. Nothing wrong with that.

RITTER: Did they hope for better fields and bigger TV ratings? If so, it failed. But my impression is that they simply wanted to lock up sponsors for these events, and the scheduling wrinkle was created to close a few business deals. In that case, mission accomplished.

MORFIT: For the guys who barely got their Tour cards through the tour, it was a dismal failure. They had a heck of a time getting into tournaments. For Webb Simpson, Harris English and even Briny Baird, it was a rousing success. Did I watch? I did not. 

SENS: Somewhere in between. Worth seeking alternatives to the snooze of the silly season, but the wide dispersion of events around the globe and the wildly watered down fields in many tournaments made things a mess from a branding standpoint. Which tournaments mattered? Where was a fan to focus his or her interest? It was like going to the store and seeing all those olive oils. So much choice, it's hard to develop loyalty to any one. Which reminds me: if you're not cooking with olive oil, you really should be.

BAMBERGER: Well, you surely cannot call it a failure after one year. It will take years for us to really accept this new definition of the golf season. It's inherently awkward, but it can work. Over time, as the various tours merge and the boundaries disappear, I imagine we'll go back to thinking about a calendar-year season. Check back with me in 2033 (he typed hopefully). 

4. A couple weeks ago, the PGA of America floated the idea of bringing the PGA Championship overseas. This week, PGA of America president Ted Bishop named a potential venue: Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. What do you think of Portrush hosting a PGA Championship?

PASSOV: Contesting any PGA Championship outside of the United States seems ridiculous to me -- utter nonsense. I'd drop that opinion entirely if they played it at Royal Portrush. You go, Ted Bishop!

VAN SICKLE: An international PGA makes sense if it's twinned with another big event of some kind, either a major (like a British Open) or a WGC event. I'm not familiar with the infrastructure at Portrush, but the course is certainly worthy. Points for the PGA of America for thinking outside the bun.

SHIPNUCK: As much as I love Portrush, it's a horrible idea. I thought the point was to do something different -- we already have one major played in the linksland, and Europe gets to host every other Ryder Cup. If the PGA is going to go on the road, it needs to go to Asia, the antipodes, South America ... hell, maybe Iceland. Just nowhere near the other majors.

SENS: Great venue, and I like the fact that the public can play it. And it would give fans a glimpse of a course that has been left off the British Open rota for decades. As for other venues: if it weren't for the summer heat in Florida, I'd say bring the PGA to Streamsong. And it weren't for the logistical headaches, I'd say Bandon. And if it weren't for the time change, I'd say Barnbougle Dunes. I'm not being much help here.

RITTER: Portrush would be cool, and there are dozens of great courses around the world that would be worthy venues. Off the top of my head, Royal Melbourne might be my first choice.

MORFIT: This whole thing reminds me of a thing I wrote almost 15 years ago, arguing tongue-in-cheek that the U.S. Open should be held in Britain. If the idea of crossing borders is so appealing, why not take baby steps and venture up to Hamilton Golf and Country Club, a highly regarded course outside Toronto? From what I'm hearing on the news lately, Toronto seems like a cracking good place for a PGA.  

BAMBERGER: Have you ever been to Portrush? Very, very cool idea. This is not your grandmother's PGA of America.

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