BOB WEST — Houston in, Austin out on 2024 PGA Tour schedule

Published 12:18 am Wednesday, March 15, 2023

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As was predicted here nearly two months ago, Astros owner Jim Crane has gotten his way with the PGA Tour over moving the Houston Open back to the spring from its unappealing fall date. Still up in the air is exactly where Houston gets slotted in an ever-changing lineup.

What is known for sure is that next week’s Dell Match Play Championship, which has enjoyed a terrific run in Austin, is off the schedule. Houston could get that mid-March date or wind up with something in April or May due to anticipated shuffling.

Also certain is that there won’t be a 2023 Houston Open. It just wouldn’t have been financially feasible to play the event in November, then do it again in four or five months.

If you have been paying attention, you know the threat created by LIV has shoved the normally staid PGA Tour into considerable flux on its schedule, size of purses and very way of doing business. One of the offshoots looks to be a negative for rank-and-file players like our own Chris Stroud and Andrew Landry.

More and more the tour is moving in a way that benefits the top players, with elevated events and smaller fields with no cuts. Middle-of-the-pack players still have opportunities, but they will be playing for lesser purses and fewer Fed Ex Cup points.

One could almost make an argument that “non-elevated” events are almost a separate tour like the PGA’s top level and the Korn Ferry Tour. However, there will be chances for a second-tier player who gets hot at the right time to earn a spot in the elevated events.

What the tour is moving toward is to guarantee more tournaments where a high percentage of the very best players are participating. That, of course, draws bigger TV ratings and larger crowds and leaves LIV pretty much irrelevant.

The 2024 schedule, then, runs from January to August, with only the top 70 players moving on to the playoffs. Fall tournaments become even more of an afterthought, although there will be some benefits.

In addition to the majors, the Players and three Fed Ex Cup playoff events, there will be eight elevated or designed tournaments with payoffs of at least $20 million and 700 Fed Ex points for winning. Fields for most of those will be in the 70 to 80 player range with no cut.

Purses at regular tour stops, meanwhile, will be in the $6 to $8 million range with 500 Fed Ex points, fields up to 156 players and a 36-hole cut. Clearly, there are haves and have nots in the big picture.

As of now, half the designated tournaments are the so-called legacy events – Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial, Tiger Woods’ Genesis at Riviera, the Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill and the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Two of the other four appear to be the AT&T Pebble Beach, which was losing popularity with players and the former Honda Classic. That leaves everybody else scrambling for the remaining two prime, big-bucks tournaments. Phoenix apparently won’t be re-upped as elevated.

Could Houston land one of the elevated spots? Possible but a long shot.

What about the other Texas stops – the Valero Texas Open, the Byron Nelson or the Colonial? Surely the Lone Star State, with all its golf history and legendry stars, won’t get snubbed.

Or will it?

A betting man would probably say Colonial is the best bet.

Tournaments that are not elevated will be left to scramble for high- ranked players and it will be a challenge. The tour’s tentative plan is to have back-to-back elevated tournaments, then three regular events, then two more elevated.

Basically, thanks to LIV, the PGA Tour has moved to another level and a drastically different business model.

CHIP SHOTS: Boe Lowe of Lumberton is the most recent to score a hole in one at Babe Zaharias. Lowe sank a pitching wedge from 122 yards on No. 2 last Friday for what was his fourth ace. Witnesses were Billy Foret, John Dunn and Buddy Elmore . . .

PNG ex Braden Bailey struggled in his return to tournament competition in last week’s APT Tour stop in Alexandria, Louisiana. Staggered by a quadruple bogey on a par 3, Bailey missed the cut on rounds of 74-73. He’s playing this week’s APT Coushatta Casino Championship in Kinder, Louisiana . . .

None of the PGA Tour players with Southeast Texas ties were eligible for last week’s Players Championship. Andrew Landry and MJ Duffue are entered in this week’s Valspar Championship outside Tampa. Chris Stroud was the fifth alternate and didn’t make it in . . .

The team of James Vercher, Raymond Darbonne, Tony Trevino and Larry Johnson won the front and tied the back, both at plus 1, in Monday’s Senior 50 Plus 2 ball. Also plus 1 on the back was the foursome of Ron LaSalle, Aubrey Ward, Ron Mistrot and Don MacNeil.

Closest to the pin winners were Glenn Judice (No. 2), Jimmy Cady (No. 7), Ted Freeman (No. 9) and Vercher (No. 12) . . .

The Friday Zaharias 2 ball saw a tie on the front at minus 1 between the team of LaSalle, Earl Richard, Larry Reece and Phil Hanks and the foursome of Bob West, Bob Byerly, Johnson and Stuart Ellis. Even par won the back for Danny Robbins, Rick Pritchett, Dan Harrington and Dan Flood.

Closest to the pin winners were Darbonne (No. 2, 7-11), Byerly (No. 7, 10-5), Doug LeBlanc (No. 9, 38-1) and Adam Davis (No. 12, 9-7) . . .

All points count was the format for the Wednesday Zaharias DogFight. Winning with 28 points was the team of Earl Richard, David Buchanan, Tom Fenner and Gary Anderson. Teams captained by Kenny Robbins and Brian Sweeney tied for second with 26 points.

Closest to the pin winners were Danny Robbins (No. 2, 4 feet), Kenny Robbins (No. 7, 5-11), Rusty Hicks (No. 9, 9-2) and Art Turner (No. 12, 10-7) . . .

Golf news should be e-mailed to Bob West at