Welcome Back, PGA Tour
It has been 14 weeks since the PGA Tour held an event. This week, things change. The Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, TX tees off on Thursday, June 11th. With the Tour missing the last seven events the field this week is loaded with top-end talent. The World’s Top 5 golfers: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson are in the field as are 17 of the top 20 in the FedEx Cup Standings.
Several of the European Professional Football (soccer) leagues have started, and the UFC has continued, however the re-start of the PGA Tour is the first major sport in the United States to get moving forward. There will be changes of course. No galleries to uhh and ahh – or help players to find errant tee shots.
“Every once in a while, we just hit some foul balls and the fans kind of help you find it,” Brooks Koepka said on the “Pardon My Take” podcast. “I mean, guys are going to lose balls because of that.” He continued about how he feels the tournament will be a little different. “The energy that the fans bring, that’s what we all live for, we all strive for; it’s going to be so weird,” Koepka said. “You want to play coming down the stretch and have everyone cheering for you. Imagine this: you sink the putt on the last hole and no one’s clapping. You’re just there by yourself, and you’re like ‘yes!’ Just you, your caddie and just silence.”
The PGA Tour sent a 37-page report, “Return to Golf Events” to players, caddies and many others in the sport to outline how the Tour expects to get back into the “swing of things”.
Testing for COVID-19 will be at the forefront of the Tour’s operation and it includes three different methods: a questionnaire, thermal reading and a nasal swab or saliva test. Players and caddies will be required to undergo a test prior to leaving for the tournament, undergo all three tests when they arrive and then have daily questionnaires.
- No family and limited player personal support on-site
- Caddies will be allowed to touch bunker rakes and pins but will clean them after each use
- Players are encouraged to remove and replace the clubs from the bag, take the ball out of the hole and get new balls, tees or other items from the golf bag
- Players and caddies are expected to make every effort to social distance during the round
- Ranges will be set up to allow proper distancing and may be limited in terms of numbers at any given time
- Players will be encouraged to use hand sanitizer, which will be available on tees and greens and they will be allowed to wear masks should they so desire.
There have been additional discussions about a “group” hotel for all players and caddies as well as a charter plane from event to event. Both of these thoughts would limit the participants interactions with those outside of golf and help to keep spread at a minimum.
With now a limited schedule we should have a dash to the FedEx Cup playoffs making for some exciting weeks of golf ahead. We may have lost The Open and Olympic golf this year, but we will have a sprint to the finish this year.
At the end of the day many in the sports world (not just those working in it, but fans of sports) will be excited to see live sports back on TV this week. Let’s hope for a successful re-start and that the PGA Tour can be a precursor to other sports safely opening through the year.