Houston Open to have bigger purse with its spring date in 2024

Tony Finau won the Houston Open in November of 2022. The event is moving to March of 2024.

Tony Finau won the Houston Open in November of 2022. The event is moving to March of 2024.

Eric Christian Smith/Contributor

There have been several changes within the PGA Tour over the past year, including a reshuffling of the schedule.

Because of that, the Houston Open has returned to a spring event and will be played March 28-31 in 2024 at Memorial Park Golf Course, two weeks before the Masters.

“There was an opening that was created, and we were able to move right in,” Giles Kibbe, president of the Astros Golf Foundation, which runs the tournament, said Wednesday.

“The tour absolutely loves what we’ve been able to do here. We’ve turned a municipal golf course into a great event, a great venue for the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour wants to be here in prime time.”

Houston's tournament is taking Austin’s spot on the 2024 PGA Tour schedule. It replaces the WGG-Dell Technologies Match Play event that had been played in late March at the Austin Country Club since 2016.

Next year’s Houston Open, which will be looking for a new title sponsor, will be televised on the Golf Channel (first two rounds) and NBC (final rounds).

A move to the spring will increase the payout. The purse will be $9.1 million in 2024, up from $8.4 million in 2022. The purse will escalate every year.

“We’re returning to the PGA Tour’s prime schedule, back on national TV,” Kibbe said. “We are positioned to continue doing great things for the City of Houston and so many local charities. We’re planning on growing the event. We’re getting bigger and bigger.”

The Astros Golf Foundation has signed five-year extensions with the PGA Tour and the City of Houston through 2028 to play golf in the spring at Memorial Park. The foundation took over the Houston event from the Houston Golf Association in 2019 and, after one more year at Golf Club of Houston in Humble, moved the tournament to Memorial Park Golf Course.

“It’s phenomenal moving it,” said Kenneth Allen, director of the Houston parks and recreation department. “The course will be in pristine condition.

“From an economic standpoint, you will have Houston flooded with golf fans, and it will give us an opportunity to showcase Houston. We’re going to continue this tournament with the Astros' help, with all the sponsors and their community support.”

Moving the tournament to the spring should improve the conditions of the golf course, which will be overseeded with rye grass prior to next year’s 72-hole tournament.

The nearly one-year notice (there won't be a fall event in 2023) will allow time to make changes on the course itself. Hole No. 17 will be renovated starting late this month. The changes being done at Memorial Park are in compliance with discussions with the tour.

Next year’s Houston Open will not be a designated event, which would mean a dramatically elevated purse.

“We’re happy with that,” Kibbe said. “The best thing for the Houston Open is moving to the spring and not being a designated event right now. The date of the tournament is important to us, and we’re going to get the right players.”

Now that the Houston Open has its schedule in place, the foundation will be actively looking for a main title sponsor. Cadence Bank was the title sponsor in 2022.

The Houston Open was played the week before the Masters from 2007-2018 (except 2013, when it was two weeks before the Masters). The tournament has been played in the fall since 2019 – and at Memorial Park since 2020. The Nov. 10-13, 2022, tournament was won by Tony Finau. In 2020, the Houston Open was played Nov. 5-8, and due to COVID-19, the tournament was again contested one week before the Masters.

A return to a coveted spring schedule is something Astros owner Jim Crane has been working on since the Astros Golf Foundation took over the tournament.

“We’ve been a bug in the commissioner’s ear for a long time and probably a lot longer than he had hoped,” Kibbe said of the PGA's Jay Monahan. “It’s something we were focused on from day one. It’s something we’ve constantly talked about and pushed for. It’s been a lot of work.”