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Jack Nicklaus says ‘strong possibility’ Memorial Tournament moves week before US Open

DUBLIN, Ohio — The PGA Tour is strongly considering moving the Memorial Tournament farther from Memorial Day and closer to Father’s Day as it decides whether to push the 2024 event deeper into June, one week before the US Open.

“I’d say it’s a strong possibility,” Memorial founder and host Jack Nicklaus said Sunday. “I would prefer to stay where we are. I don’t like being the week before the Open, but if it’s for the betterment of the Tour and what they’re trying to do then I would understand that, too.”

Will golf fans accustomed to attending the event during its traditional Memorial Day week placement on the calendar be as understanding? Probably, but scheduling adjustments will need to happen. For example, the second week of June often jump-starts the vacation season for families who cannot get away sooner because of school conflicts. For instance, high school athletes are competing this weekend in state championships.

Nicklaus stressed that tournament scheduling dates remain fluid, sharing that Tour officials told him Wednesday no final decision on the Memorial had been made. So the Golden Bear may yet get his wish to maintain the scheduling status quo.

“They’ve asked me about it,” he said. “I’m not in favor of it, but I would cooperate with the Tour.”

Nicklaus won’t come out and say it, but I can. Moving the Memorial later a week does not mean the sky is falling, but it would stink all the same.

First, there is the issue of tying the Memorial to Memorial Day. Since its arrival in 1976, the tournament has selected one or more honorees who have positively impacted golf. The tournament has not always been held the same week as Memorial Day, but moving it permanently to a week later bugs me, plus it brings in even hotter weather.

So why do it? Money, of course. Mostly to compete against LIV Golf’s Saudi-backed cash, the PGA Tour has designated eight tournaments to offer elevated purses. As one of the eight, the Memorial’s purse increased from $12 million in 2022 to $20 million this year.

Many of the top Tour players want a better schedule “flow,” meaning as many designated events scheduled back-to-back as possible. They don’t like one on, one off. In response, the Tour is committed to “bunching” designated events next year.

Andy Pazder, chief tournament and competition officer for the PGA Tour, said Wednesday the Tour is also sensitive to the concerns of non-designated tournaments that worry they will get “lost” among the bigger-money events. The plan is to avoid siloing those full-field events as much as possible.

Nicklaus gets it.

“The issue is not (the Memorial),” he said, explaining how the tour may have little choice but to rework the schedule to make both sides – players and non-designated events and their sponsors – happy.

What that likely means is the Memorial giving its current schedule spot to a non-designated event, perhaps the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit or Canadian Open, while it moves to June 6-9 (in 2024), right before the US Open, which immediately would be followed by a third consecutive designated event; maybe the Travelers Championship.

Such a move would allow two or three non-designated events – the Colonial and maybe Detroit, Canada or Houston – to take place over consecutive weeks while bunching three designated events after them.

It makes sense, but you can see why Nicklaus wouldn’t like it. The Memorial is considered an elite event, only one tier down from the majors. It will remain highly regarded and attended by top players, because of Jack’s stature in the game and also the $20 million, but it also risks becoming an opening act for the US Open.

Nicklaus, who rarely played events the week before a major championship, also may be concerned the Memorial could lose some top players who follow a mindset similar to his, too resting the week before a major.

But if the Bear is nervous, he isn’t showing it. At least not publicly.

“I don’t think it will hurt the field at all,” he said.

We shall see. When the Tour event in Akron preceded the PGA Championship by a week, the field rarely suffered. Will it be the same here? We can only hope so.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy doesn’t plan on skipping the Memorial if it leads into the US Open.

“I really like playing the week before a major,” he said. “Look, there’s no better way to get sharp for a golf tournament than to play a golf tournament.”

And the Memorial isn’t just any golf tournament. It deserves respect. What will the Tour do? I almost hate to ask.

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Story originally appeared on GolfWeek