Bethpage - Shifting the PGA Championship to May in time to be the first major
after Tiger Woods snapped an 11-year major win drought was brilliant
An electric atmosphere is expected to greet the 15-time major winner
next week at the 101st PGA Championship at Bethpage Black with huge
numbers of casual television golf fans likely to lift ratings to record
But the PGA of America also hopes Woods winning the Masters last
month at age 43 and chasing a 16th major title can boost lagging
participation numbers the way his first major win did at the 1997
"Obviously Tiger has impact, sort of the moon landing -- it's not
golf, it's 'Where were you when?' kind of stuff," said PGA of America
chief executive Seth Waugh. "We absolutely know the fan base will be
"We hope it will have the same effect that he had his first go-around
on participation as well. Hopefully we can ride not only the wave and
excitement about watching him play, but others wanting to play.
Hopefully that knock-on effect has a long-term effect."
The decision to shift the PGA came two years ago as part of a revamp
of the global golf calendar, when Woods was still recovering from the
spinal fusion surgery that would end his nagging back injuries and allow
him to return to elite golf success.
His dramatic breakthrough victory at the Masters brought his first
major title since the 2008 US Open and made it a good year to stage a
major in May.
"We were very excited about the May change before Tiger made his
fireworks in Georgia," Waugh said. "We thought it was smart. It looks
"I don't know if we could count on him forever, but that momentum from the Masters into the PGA is extraordinary."
Tickets sold out for the weekend. Volunteer helpers grew.
"So we really expect to have an amazing championship at an amazing
place. Couldn't be a better kind of story. I think Bethpage is one of
those kind of amazing miracles."
Waugh said some of the mistakes that followed golf growth in the wake
of "Tigermania" in 1997 will not be repeated the second time around.
"We'll be sort of more cautious," Waugh said. "We hope and we expect
that we'll get a participation bump here, which we've been waiting for
for a while, and hopefully we can ride it into something beyond him and
do it in a prudent but a growth way.
"We hope this will turbocharge it a little bit."
The PGA will have
slightly more daylight time than in August and less heat, but the grass
is still growing in May and that could make rough management to 3.5 to 4
inches tricky, said PGA of America chief championships officer Kerry
"I think the golf course will be in just outstanding condition," he
said. "The cool season grasses should be a lot healthier. They will be
sort of improving, as opposed to in the August date we were sort of more
on a hanging-on, keeping-the-grass-alive mode.
"But also more likely possibly have more chance of wind and probably tougher playing conditions."