Houston's annual PGA Tour event is moving back to the springtime, where it will have better exposure and likely a stronger field of competitors.
The Houston Open, which had been held in the fall since 2019, has secured a spring date as part of the PGA Tour's 2024 schedule, the Astros Golf Foundation announced this week. The foundation took control of the event after the 2018 tournament and in 2020 moved it to Memorial Park Golf Course, a municipal course that underwent a $34 million renovation as part of the move.
The Houston Open will not be held this year on account of the schedule shift, which might again make it a tune-up tournament for the Masters, the first of golf's four annual major events that is typically held in April. Houston's event was held the week before the Masters for about a decade before it shifted to the fall in 2019.
Giles Kibbe, the president of the Astros Golf Foundation, said Thursday the Houston Open does not yet have a specific date for the 2024 tournament and does not know whether it will be played before or after the Masters. Still, a springtime tournament is preferable and figures to attract more of the PGA Tour’s top players, Kibbe said.
"We fully expect that we’ll get a stronger field in the spring,” he said.
The Houston Open will not be one of the PGA Tour's new "designated" events, Kibbe said. Those tournaments have elevated prize purses, no 36-hole cut and feature the top players on the tour.
Even without such a designation, the Houston Open figures to be more of a draw during the early stages of the PGA Tour season as opposed to the latter stages. The tournament was held in November during each of the last four years, with Tony Finau winning in 2022.
Playing in the spring will lead to better course conditions at Memorial Park, which will host the Houston Open at least through 2028 per its agreements with the city and PGA Tour, Kibbe said. The prize purse for the 2024 tournament will increase from $8.4 million to $9.1 million, with subsequent annual increases, according to Kibbe, who said next year’s event will be televised nationally by either CBS or NBC.
“Since Day 1, we've been wanting to get this back into the spring,” Kibbe said. “It's taken four years, but it's probably a lot shorter period than most people would have thought. Once you get out of the spring, it’s tough to get back in. It’s just something we've been working toward since 2019.”
The Houston Open is the largest fundraiser for the Astros Foundation, the team charity for Major League Baseball's Houston Astros, and benefits the city as well as the First Tee of Greater Houston, among other charities. The golf tournament has an annual economic impact to the city of up to $90 million, according to the Astros Golf Foundation.
When the Houston Open moved to Memorial Park in 2020, it was the first time in 57 years that it was held inside the city limits.
"The return of the Houston Open to the City of Houston and to the PGA Tour's spring schedule is something I have advocated for and supported since I became mayor," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a news release from the Astros. "The fact that it happened so quickly must be credited to Astros owner Jim Crane and is a testament to what can be accomplished by a true public and private partnership and this community's support of the Astros Golf Foundation, which raised $34 million to renovate the Memorial Park Golf Course and improve its facilities."