PGA presents packed 2016 schedule in Olympic year
Jordan Spieth might have no choice but to miss the John Deere Classic next year. It's the same week as the Olympics.
The PGA Tour released Thursday its 2015-16 schedule, which included several changes because of golf's return to the Olympics next August in Rio de Janeiro. The Travelers Championship, John Deere Classic and Wyndham Championship will be played during the three-week Olympic window.
Spieth chose to play the John Deere Classic this year, even though it was a week before his bid for the third leg of the Grand Slam at the British Open. He not only won the Deere, the 21-year-old Texan missed a playoff by one shot at St. Andrews
He also won the John Deere in 2013 to earn his full PGA Tour card.
Tournament director Clair Peterson said the John Deere would like to have Spieth back to defend, although ''we can think of no better representative of our country'' than Spieth at the Rio games.
''We have had the privilege of getting to know Jordan over the last four years,'' he said. ''And next summer the rest of the world will have a chance to get to know him, too.''
The Americans can have as many as four players at the Olympics, provided they are among the top 15 in the world ranking. Spieth is No. 2, and he has nearly double the points average over the fifth-ranked American.
It's possible two PGA Tour events during the Olympics will be without a defending champion. Bubba Watson, currently No. 3, won the Travelers.
Golf executives had told the International Olympic Committee they wouldn't hold big events - majors and World Golf Championships - during the Olympics. It was always going to be busy, especially in a Ryder Cup year (Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Minnesota).
The PGA Championship agreed to move up to July 28-31, just two weeks after the British Open. And the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone will be held two weeks after the U.S. Open instead of its early August date preceding the PGA Championship.
Still unclear is how that will affect the European Tour, which has not released its schedule for next year. The weeks between the U.S. Open and British Open are during the heart of the continental schedule with strong events in Germany, France and Scotland.
''We knew there would be challenges for all of golf in terms of scheduling when the Olympics came in, and a number of people have made sacrifices,'' said Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour's chief spokesman and vice president of the International Golf Federation.
The Quicken Loans National, hosted by Tiger Woods, will be held a week after the U.S. Open. Woods has not played the week following the U.S. Open since he tied for 13th in the Buick Classic in 2003. That means a three-week stretch on courses that have hosted majors - Oakmont, Congressional and Firestone.
The Greenbrier Classic will be in the John Deere's old spot a week before the British Open, and the Canadian Open will be sandwiched between the British Open (Royal Troon) and the PGA Championship (Baltusrol).
The FedEx Cup playoffs will start the week after the Olympics, and that could present challenges for players from smaller countries who qualify for the Olympics but are struggling to stay in the top 125 in the FedEx Cup. That could mean giving up a crucial week - or two weeks if they want to take part in opening ceremonies in Rio - in which they are missing out on potential points. This year, for example, Carlos Ortiz of Mexico is No. 111 in the FedEx Cup.
''We're looking at this as one in four (years). We're not faced with it every year,'' Votaw said. ''So it depends on where they are and what they want.''
He said projections show only about half of the 60-man field for the Olympics will be PGA Tour members.