Quirk in 2013 PGA Tour schedule puts kink in run-up to Masters

Louis Oosthuizen at the Shell Houston Open
Getty Images
Players like Louis Oosthuizen might have to adjust their schedules as they prepare for the Masters next season.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

The Shell Houston Open has created an identity as the last chance for a player to qualify for the Masters.

But not next year.

The Masters traditionally ends on the second Sunday of April, and the way the calendar falls in 2013, that pushes it back one week later than usual. The Masters next year will be April 11-14.

That leaves an extra week between Bay Hill -- the end of the Florida Swing -- and the first major of the year. The PGA Tour has decided that Houston will stay the week after Bay Hill, and the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio will take the spot the week before the Masters.

Along with giving players (Ernie Els comes to mind) one final chance to qualify for the Masters, Houston has become an attractive spot for players wanting competition before the first major. It sets up Redstone Golf Club to help prepare players for Augusta National.

''We're going to work with it,'' Houston Open Tournament Director Steve Timms said. ''It's not going to change the strategy at all in terms of how we set up the golf course. We have momentum. We've been received well by the players. We're hopeful they'll continue to want to play in Houston to prepare for the Masters.''

But it's less than ideal for Houston.

For starters, the Houston Open will end on Easter Sunday next year. And if that's not enough, the PGA Tour has agreed to move the Tavistock Cup -- a Monday-Tuesday exhibition -- from the week of Bay Hill to the week of Houston. That made-for-TV gig attracts 24 players, most of them in the Orlando, Fla., area.

That roster typically includes Tiger Woods, who represents Team Albany from the Bahamas. And that might hurt the one upside of Houston moving away from the week before the Masters -- a chance to get Woods for the first time. Timms spoke to Woods' agent last week at the Masters about the schedule change.

''He said that was interesting, but he doesn't know how that will affect his schedule,'' Timms said. ''Historically, he has played two weeks before the Masters.''

The last time this scheduling quirk happened was in 2008. New Orleans was inserted after the Florida Swing, and Houston kept its spot before the Masters. Woods did not play in New Orleans that year.

It's the second time in three years the Texas Open has been given a spot that belonged to another tournament. Hilton Head is traditionally the week after the Masters, but in 2011 when the tournament was trying to replace its sponsor, it was moved to two weeks after Augusta. The Texas Open followed the Masters.

Why can't Texas go a week before the Houston Open next year?

According to two officials, the Texas Open contract says that it cannot end on Easter Sunday, which is why it was given the week after the Masters last year. The tournament is one of the top contributors to charity on the PGA Tour, with much of that money coming from a golf outing it holds the day after its event. The fear is that ending on Easter would limit participation in the outing.

Timms sees some positives out of the date change for 2013. There's still a chance he can get Woods. And because it will fall two weeks before the Masters, that will be the cutoff for players trying to get into the top 50 in the world to qualify for the Masters.

''We'll only know next year at this time if that's able to outweigh some of the challenges with Easter,'' Timms said.