For the first time, a World Golf Championship will be played back-to-back with The Players Championship.
The PGA Tour announced on Wednesday that the 2015 WGC Match Play, which had been played in California and Arizona in 15 of the last 16 years, will be held at the TPC Harding Park in San Francisco April 29-May 3, a week before The Players at the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course.
The Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C., which has preceded The Players since 2007, will be the week after the Tour’s signature event.
The schedule change will be only for one year. Once a title sponsor agreement is reached for the Match Play, a new date and venue will be announced for 2016 and beyond.
“We see this as a one-off situation,” said PGA Tour executive vice-president for communications Ty Votaw. “Geography aside, it will be a nice lead-in to The Players. The Wells Fargo had been a very good tournament in that regard and it will go back to that date [the week before The Players] after this one year.”
Wells Fargo tournament director Kym Houghman said he would not have agreed to the switch had the Tour asked him to change dates permanently.
“We love the first week in May and a lot of people here make their plans around that date,” Houghman said. “It was a chance for us to help the Tour for this one year and we’re only too glad to do it. We still think we’ll have the same high-quality fields we have had.”
A tight travel schedule from the West Coast to the East for The Players will affect only the 16 players who advance to the weekend under the Match Play tournament’s new format. Four of those players will reach the semifinals on Sunday.
The Match Play has been held at three venues in Arizona the last eight years, and was at the La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, Calif., in seven of eight years from 1998-2006. The tournament was staged in Australia in 2001.
Accenture declined to renew its title sponsorship beyond this year.
Tour officials changed the date of the Match Play in 2015 to improve the chances of dry conditions at Harding.
The new Match Play format will be more TV-friendly and will insure that the top players will play at least three days. The field of 64 (drawn from the World Golf Rankings) will be split into 16 four-player pools. Each player will face the other three on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that week, and the one with the best record in the pool will advance to the round of 16.
In addition to the Match Play, Harding Park has also landed the 2020 PGA Championship and the 2025 Presidents Cup. Harding Park was the site for the 2009 Presidents Cup and for the WGC event in 2005 that has been played at Doral since 2007.
The PGA hasn’t been played on the West Coast since Vijay Singh won at the Sahalee Country Club near Seattle in 1998.
Garry Smits: (904) 359-4362