Colonial officials to discuss future date options with PGA Tour

This much we know about next year’s Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial: Boo Weekley will be the defending champion and the event will conclude on Memorial Day weekend, just like it did Sunday.

But when Weekley returns to defend his title in Fort Worth (May 19-25, 2014), there is a chance the 2014 Colonial could mark the end of the tournament’s May stay on local golf calendars.

That will be a topic of discussion in the coming months between club officials and PGA Tour executives, Colonial tournament chairman Bobby Patton said. Colonial representatives seek to improve the star quality of a field that did not feature any of the top 10 players from the world golf rankings this year, primarily because the 2013 Colonial was played on dates that conflicted with the BMW PGA Championship, one of the highest-profile events on the European Tour.

It is too soon to know if the same conflict will exist in 2014. But Patton wants to be proactive in making sure the conflict does not become a trend for Fort Worth’s annual tour stop in an era when many of the world’s top players are Europeans.

“In 2015, the PGA Tour calendar will be wide open and we’re going to make every effort to make our date the most attractive and the best date possible for this tournament,” said Patton, whose personal choice would be the week before the U.S. Open, a spot held on this year’s calendar by the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis. “It is always going to be tough being opposite the BMW.”

PGA Tour officials have the final say on tournament dates and typically finalize those dates one year in advance. That is why Colonial officials already know next year’s event will follow the HP Byron Nelson Championship (May 12-18, 2014), creating another two-week stay in Dallas-Fort Worth for touring pros in 2014. The European Tour has not set its 2014 calendar.

Since its inception in 1946, the only time the final round at Fort Worth’s annual tour stop has not been played in May was in 1975. That year, the tournament moved to Aug. 21-24 and was played as the Tournament Players Championship. That event now is called The Players Championship and is contested annually in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Unlike in past years, when Colonial officials cited a May date as a key logistical component of tournament week because they can access parking lots at TCU between the end of the spring semester and the start of summer school, Colonial tournament director Michael Tothe said ample alternatives now are available for park-and-shuttle locations if the event moves out of May.

In terms of possible June dates, Tothe said: “I think we’d look at it. I don’t know when that would be, if it would be after the Open or before the Open. But we’d look at any sort of date opportunity.”

Both Patton and Tothe stressed that holding the event on Memorial Day weekend is a very desirable date, in terms of course conditions and tournament logistics. But the potential for recurring conflicts with the BMW event is a challenge in attracting elite European talent.

In Monday’s updated world golf rankings, five of the world’s top 10 golfers are from Europe, as well as seven of the top 16 (Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter).

Among that group, Garcia won the 2001 Colonial title and has seven career appearances in Fort Worth, most recently in 2012. Rose (2005-06, 2009-10) and Poulter (2008-10) have been regular Colonial competitors in past years. All three played last week at the BMW event.

Among 2013 Colonial competitors, runner-up Matt Kuchar climbed from 13th to ninth in Monday’s updated world rankings. Louis Oosthuizen, the No. 8 player in the world, withdrew on Monday of Colonial week because of a neck injury sustained at the Byron Nelson.

Colonial’s dates have conflicted with the BMW event in past years, too. It is a year-to-year proposition, based on scheduling, and Colonial officials stressed they will do what is best for their event, starting in 2015, even if that means the end of DFW doubleheaders with the Nelson.

“Maybe the BMW moves (on the European Tour schedule). Who knows?” said Patton, leaving open myriad future possibilities.

But the final call belongs to PGA Tour officials, although Colonial and Crowne Plaza officials will have an opportunity to offer input.

“We’ll kind of look at some options and see what options they have for us,” Tothe said. “There might not be anything that becomes available.”

The only confirmed date, going forward, is another Memorial Day weekend at the 2014 Colonial. After that, everything is open for discussion.