After 8 years, the PGA Tour returns to Colorado
When Dean Wilson edged out Tom Lehman to win his first and only PGA Tour event at the 2006 edition of The International at Castle Pines, nobody knew eight years would pass before the PGA Tour would return to Colorado.
In 2006, the first FedEx Cup playoff was a year in the offing, but as we remember all too well, its advent played a major role in deleting the Centennial State from the PGA Tour schedule.
So it’s a bit ironic that the penultimate event of the FedEx Cup—the BMW Championship—is bringing the world’s best players back to the Mountain Time Zone. The timing is right, however, for a number of reasons.
If Castle Pines had hosted a 2007 FedEx Cup match, it would have associated itself—at great financial expense—with a system that initially endured the kind of criticism usually reserved for college football’s Bowl Championship Series. Factor in dearth of sponsorship dollars during the ensuing financial crisis, as well as the competition from football in terms of attendance and TV ratings, and you can understand the wisdom behind not rising to the Tour’s bait.
By contrast, today’s FedEx Cup reflects modifications in scoring and structure that have made each of the four events more intriguing, competitive, and relevant to the average fan. The economy has picked up; so have sponsorships.
Back in 2007, Tiger Woods so dominated the Tour that he split it into two tiers of events—the ones in which he played and those he didn’t. He didn’t even participate in the first–ever FedEx Cup event—the 2007 Barclays— yet still ran away with the FedEx Cup. Today, he’s scrambling to crack the field of 125 at the Barclays and eventually qualify for the BMW.
The 70 players competing at Cherry Hills won’t be the same ones at the 2006 International. Sprinkled in among veterans like Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Jim Furyk are exciting young gunners like Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Jimmy Walker, Ricky Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Justin Spieth and Patrick Reed. With so many first-time winners this season, there’s more parity in golf than at any other time in recent history.
In addition to bringing these fierce competitors to Cherry Hills, what makes this year’s BMW Championship so special is its Western Open pedigree. The event spans parts of three centuries, beginning in 1899, and benefits the Western Golf Association’s Evans Scholarship program, which provides full-ride college tuition for caddies who demonstrate financial need. Cherry Hills has long supported the program—member and Tournament Chairman George Solich, who caddied at the Broadmoor, was famously an Evans Scholar—and six of the 46 Evans Scholars currently at the University of Colorado caddied at Cherry Hills, which has produced 35 Evans Scholars Alumni.
Those are all backstories. The best news of all is the BMW signals the return of a PGA Tour event to Colorado. And with the kind of show we’re capable of staging, it won’t take another eight years to stage the next one.