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When will PGA Tour golf come back to the Twin Cities?
This week, players on the PGA Tour will again hit their drives from between tee markers shaped like miniature tractors when they tee it up at the John Deere Classic in the Quad Cities. And it’s a week that makes me – and I would guess others in the Midwest – shake their head.
I have nothing against the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois. I actually attended the Quad Cities PGA Tour stop – then known as the Hardees Classic – once in the early ’90s. Because the John Deere Classic is positioned the week before The Open Championship, this week’s field won’t be the strongest we see on the PGA Tour. Even so, I frequently find myself a little jealous this week.
Every year, the PGA Tour comes to town. And every year golf fans in that part of the United States get a chance to see great golfers play. It makes me want to make the six hour drive to Silvis, Ill.
A native of Minnesota who was born less than a year after the 1970 U.S. Open, our state has played host to the best professional golfers in the world just three times in my lifetime. There was the ’91 U.S. Open in which Payne Stewart beat Scott Simpson in a Monday playoff. And then there were the two recent PGA Championships – ’02 when Rich Beem won and then ’09 when Y.E. Yang won (and then hoisted his bag over his head like it was the Stanley Cup).
To put that into a little context, there are as many tournaments in Southern California each winter as there have been tournaments in Minnesota in my lifetime.
I also realize that the TPC Twin Cities hosts the Champions Tour’s 3M Championship each summer. But that, to be honest, doesn’t excite me all that much. There is certainly some good golf played, but it seems as if too much of the crowd is interested in seeing the legends of the game than the guys who are making birdies.
We will again see top-notch golf in four years when Hazeltine National hosts the 2016 Ryder Cup. The event will be interesting and likely filled with some drama, but with the small number of matches on the course the first two days, I worry that it will be challenging to actually see golf.
The Ryder Cup is the final event in Hazeltine’s two PGAs and a Ryder Cup deal with the PGA Championship. So if you’re waiting for another stroke play tournament, the wait is going to be a while. The PGA of America has its PGA Championship sites booked through 2017. And if the USGA has any interest in returning the U.S. Open to Minnesota, it won’t be until at least 2020.
That means that if you live in Minnesota and want to see top-notch golf, you’re going to have to travel. One good thing is that the 2015 PGA Championship will return to Whistling Straits outside of Kohler, Wis. And the 2017 U.S. Open is scheduled for Erin Hills, a brawny course northwest of Milwaukee.
And don’t hold your breath for the PGA Tour to show any interest. It seems very clear that the Midwest is not high on the list of the Tour’s geographic priorities. In last several years, PGA Tour events in Milwaukee and Detroit have been shuttered (in favor of Washington, D.C., and West Virginia). It doesn’t seem to matter to the Tour that Minneapolis and Detroit are top 15 TV markets and that Milwaukee is No. 35 (the Quad Cities are No. 97).
In addition, Chicago no longer has an annual event as the BMW Championship rotates site. It is being held in Indianapolis this year, Chicago in 2013 and Denver in 2014. The event has also been held in St. Louis. Minneapolis was initially talked about as a potential site in the BMW rotation, but that has to come to fruition.
So what can a Minnesota golf fan who wants to see top level golf do? The options are pretty simple: Watch TV, fill up the car with gas or be envious of the Quad Cities.
READ MORE from Jeff at his golf blog, Only Golf Matters.com