Let’s start with the obvious positives. We’re all running thin on Netflix specials, on new books to read, whatever. After five-some weeks isolated and socially distanced with little to watch, everyone’s ready for sport to come back to our lives — in any format we can get it. Aggressively ahead of most other professional sports organizations on plotting a return, the PGA Tour announced Thursday morning a plan to resume play starting June 8.
The question isn’t if we want sports back. The person you know that loathes golf the most would probably settle for a sleepy Saturday afternoon 3M Open broadcast right now. It’s a matter if it’s right for the country and the world during this global pandemic.
Here’s what you need to know — and what to think about as we’re looking at this new schedule.
The Tour’s timeline to return is aggressive and will require extensive travel. Can that actually happen?
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who’s been a shining light of truth for many through this crisis, indicated just yesterday that there’s a path for sport to return this summer — playing without fans.
That’s not a problem for the Tour, which seems to be prepared to play events without galleries for several weeks. The return in Fort Worth at Colonial won’t feature anyone in the grandstands, nor will any event through the Rocket Mortgage Classic on the weekend of July 4 in Detroit. PGA of America president Seth Waugh has said the organization is prepared to play the August PGA Championship without fans at Harding Park in San Francisco. At the very least, the governing bodies are prepared for the reality that fans may not be present at golf tournaments for a long time.
But there’s one other item Fauci noted in his comments earlier in the week that would be a massive problem for the Tour’s proposed schedule — keeping the players quarantined, isolated, and restricted to a small geographic area.
“There’s a way of [returning].” Fauci told Snapchat on Tuesday when speaking about a possible return for Major League Baseball. “Nobody comes to the stadium. Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled. ... Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.”
Golf has an advantage other sports don’t in this struggle to return to normalcy. The game is by nature spread out over hundreds of acres, outdoors. It’s not a contact sport, save for interaction with a caddie. That makes it relatively easy to still adhere to six-feet-apart social distancing guidelines during competition.
But the PGA Tour’s proposed schedule would struggle to meet the standard Fauci and others advise of sequestering athletes in a defined localized area. The MLB, NBA, EPL, and other leagues have all reportedly floated ideas to isolate players to complete seasons in places like Las Vegas or Arizona. The Tour is not doing that here. If regional and local containment becomes a priority and testing cannot increase to the capacity needed, is it safe to have professional golfers and a traveling cadre of broadcasters, support staff, and others? Despite the announced plans, the Tour seems to at least be keeping that in mind.
PGA Tour exec Andy Pazder expresses confidence that increased testing availability will facilitate a June re-start of competition but adds, "We will play only when we are certain that it is safe and responsible to do so."— Will Gray (@WillGrayGC) April 16, 2020
RIP to the Greenbrier event, which is gone from the schedule for good
The casualty of all the schedule shuffling? The Greenbrier, which has been bumped around several times in recent years, is off the schedule for good.
There’s perhaps no full-field PGA Tour event in the modern era that’s had as weird and circuitous a history as the West Virginia event. Added to the schedule in 2010 to replace the longstanding, fan-favorite Buick Open, the tournament opened with a bang with Stuart Appleby’s stunning final-round 59 to beat Jeff Overton. That started a nice run, including appearances by Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, even during an often-shifting July date.
Then came the devastating floods that hit West Virginia in 2016, forcing the cancellation of the event, from which the tournament never really recovered. The later arc of the event brought us the somewhat bizarre, flag-loving A Military Tribute At The Greenbrier name. The final death knell to the relationship between the resort and the Tour may have been the choice to move the event from July to September as part of the 2019 schedule changes — which no matter the spin, is a less desirable date for a golf event opposite football.
The Tour’s contract with the Greenbrier ran through 2026, but both sides were ready to walk. So, goodbye to Old White and summer in West Virginia. You were nothing if not weird.
The off-season for pro golfers is suddenly, uh, right now
We often joke about the year-round, never-ending professional golf schedule. The true 2019-20 PGA Tour schedule provided all of a couple of weeks off between the season-ending Tour Championship and the aforementioned September Greenbrier. Still, there’s a usual ebb-and-flow to things for top players. Start ramping up the schedule slowly in January, February, March to prepare for the usual summer major months, then play sparingly in fall downtime.
That won’t be happening this year. The reshuffling has created a back-loaded 2020 schedule with odd rhythms and weird travel patterns leading into majors for the top players. Consider this example: If a player wants to make a couple of pre-Masters warm up starts, but doesn’t want to play the week prior in Houston, they’ll have to leave the country. The entire lead-up to the biggest tournament of the year features events in Korea, Japan, China, and Bermuda — during a global pandemic! Lots of players aren’t going to love that, probably Woods included.
The FedExCup Playoffs-U.S. Open combo in August-September will cause weirdness, too. What if Jordan Spieth, now 110th in the FedExCup standings, doesn’t qualify for the BMW Championship? Does he opt to play on the other side of the country the week before the U.S. Open? Come in with a month off ahead of a major? Or look somewhere else — like another Tour, for a start? It’s bizarre to even consider, but we’re going to see oddities in individual schedules like this all year.
Here’s the rest of the full, revised schedule — for now.
Revised 2019-20 PGA Tour Season schedule:
- NO FANS June 8-14: Charles Schwab Challenge, Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas
- NO FANS June 15-21: RBC Heritage, Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, South Carolina
- NO FANS June 22-28: Travelers Championship, TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Connecticut
- NO FANS July 2-July 5: Rocket Mortgage Classic, Detroit Golf Club, Detroit
- July 6-12: John Deere Classic, TPC Deere Run, Silvis, Illinois
- July 13-19: the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin, Ohio
- July 20-26: 3M Open, TPC Twin Cities, Blaine, Minnesota
- July 27-Aug. 2: World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, TPC Southwind, Memphis
- July 27-Aug. 2: Barracuda Championship, Tahoe Mountain Club (Old Greenwood), Truckee, California
- Aug. 3-9: PGA Championship, TPC Harding Park, San Francisco
- Aug. 10-16: Wyndham Championship, Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro, North Carolina
- Aug. 17-23: The Northern Trust, TPC Boston, Norton, Massachusetts
- Aug. 24-30: BMW Championship, Olympia Fields Country Club (North), Olympia Fields, Illinois
- Aug. 31-Sept. 7: Tour Championship, East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta
And because the Gregorian Calendar stopped mattering on the PGA Tour schedule a few years ago, here’s where the new “season” begins in the fall. If you’re going by the definition of “season,” next year’s Tour schedule will have six majors in it, if all goes according to this plan.
2020-21 PGA Tour Season Schedule (fall portion):
- Sept. 7-13: Safeway Open, Silverado Resort and Spa North, Napa, California
- Sept. 14-20: U.S. Open, Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York
- Sept. 21-27: Ryder Cup, Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wisconsin
- Sept. 21-27: Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, Corales Golf Club, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
- Sept. 28-Oct. 4: Sanderson Farms Championship, Country Club of Jackson, Jackson, Mississippi
- Oct. 5-11: Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, TPC Summerlin, Las Vegas
- Oct. 12-18: The CJ Cup, Nine Bridges, Jeju Island, Korea
- Oct. 19-25: Zozo Championship, Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, Chiba Prefecture, Japan
- Oct. 26-Nov. 1: World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, Sheshan International Golf Club, Shanghai, China
- Oct. 26-Nov. 1: Bermuda Championship, Port Royal Golf Course, Southampton, Bermuda
- Nov. 2-8: Houston Open, Memorial Park Golf Course, Houston
- Nove. 9-15: Masters Tournament, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia
- Nov. 16-22: The RSM Classic, Sea Island Resort (Seaside and Plantation), Sea Island, Georgia
- Nov. 23-29: Open week (Thanksgiving)
- Nov. 30-Dec. 6: Mayakoba Golf Classic, El Camaleón Golf Club, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
- Nov. 30-Dec. 6: Hero World Challenge, Albany, New Providence, Bahamas
- Dec. 7-13: QBE Shootout, Tiburón GC, Naples, Florida
- Dec. 14-20: PNC Father-Son Challenge, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, Orlando