If only someone had won the first three major golf tournaments in one calendar year, that season's PGA Championship would have been off the charts, especially if that someone had been Tiger Woods. That would have finally been vindication for the event that was always last in the rotation and last in prestige.
That never did happen for the PGA and it apparently never will. After this week, it no longer will be the fourth major on the schedule, regardless of where it might rank in pro golfers' hearts. With the 100th PGA Championship, which begins Thursday at Bellerive Country Club outside St. Louis, the event will say goodbye to August and aim toward a new day in May.
It will get an early jump, ushering in a new landscape for professional golf when it is held May 16-19 at Bethpage Black. PGA officials like the prospect of having the championship between the Masters and U.S. Open, when the golf year still is fresh. They are willing to roll the dice on the weather.
"We hope for a mild, warm winter. That would be great," Pete Bevacqua, chief executive officer of the PGA, said recently. "But if you grew up on Long Island, and I grew up in the Westchester area, playing Bethpage, you know that the condition of the golf course in late May is probably as good as it gets all year."
By May, Bevacqua will be long gone from the association, having announced last month that he has been named president of NBC Sports Group. The search for a new leader adds another thick layer of uncertainty for a tournament that could have a completely different vibe.
As it is, the PGA Championship's last turn in the cleanup spot could be one for the books. Jordan Spieth has the chance to complete the career Grand Slam, which would put him in heady company. But this week at Bellerive would be remembered forever if Woods wins, ending a 10-year major drought and capping a dramatic comeback from back fusion surgery.
The better Woods has played, the more dominant a story he has become. Jason Day acknowledged as much after having shot 5-under-par 65 Friday at the Bridgestone Invitational, moving within two shots of the leader. He began his post-round news conference by saying, with a laugh, "Let's go ahead and get the Tiger questions out of the way first."
Justin Thomas, the defending PGA champion who later said that receiving an invitation for a congratulatory dinner from Woods last August was as thrilling as the victory itself, said at the Bridgestone: "I'm always pulling for Tiger if I'm not playing, or if he has a chance to win and I don't."
If Woods does not win his fifth PGA this week, he will have to wait only nine months for another shot.