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Are We Ready For Tournament Golf Without Spectators?

By: | Thu 16 Apr 2020 | Comments

THERE are times in my life when I ask myself: “Is it just me?” Well, it happened again when I read reports that the PGA Tour plan to announce that the season will resume with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial from June 11-14. It is not so much the fact that they are planning to resume but that they aim to do so without fans. I totally get that they want to resume some kind of normality but are we really ready for tournaments without spectators in attendance?

Apparently, the plan is for the event to go ahead without fans, but there would have to be a group of volunteers to staff the event, along with PGA Tour officials, greenkeepers, club staff, TV crews, journalists, caddies and golfers. That is a lot of people mingling together at a time when the virus will still be rife.

What is rather more worrying, is the response on social media to the news that the Charles Schwab may go ahead. You would surely expect a chorus of disapproval. Well, I would. There has been the odd dissenting voice but literally dozens of individuals support the move.

The following message is posted on the PGA Tour’s website: ”To our fans around the world, we know you’re doing what’s necessary right now. Staying connected, working from home, some of you are teaching your kids…maybe learning some new skills yourselves. We know some of you are working the front lines in hospitals and serving in stores to deliver what others need. We know you miss your families, your friends and enjoying the things you love. What do we miss the most? YOU. Let’s keep doing what’s necessary now so we can get back into the swing of things together!"

Doing the right thing, surely, is to sit this out and wait until we are told that the worst is over. One thing is certain - that will not have happened by June 11. And, seriously, who wants to sit at home watching a golf tournament unfold without any spectators in attendance? Most of us have had our fill of “Get in the hole” when Rory McIlroy strikes a drive at a 610-yard par five. But tournament golf comes alive when roars ring around a golf course. There is just something that is fundamentally wrong about a holed 50-foot putt being greeted in silence.

We all want to see a return to normality. This is not normality. It is returning too soon.

However, two leading PGA Tour players have said that while they can’t wait to get back out there, they doubt where it is really possible that action can begin again as soon as June.

Charles Howell III says he will rely on the guidance of health care officials, including his father, who is a paediatric surgeon and chief of surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia in Augusta.

“I know the things that he and all the health care workers and first responders are going through on a daily basis,” Howell said. “In a return to golf, it would be extremely important to follow guidelines of the CDC and state and local officials and only proceed forward when they say it is safe, and, importantly, appropriate to do so. We find ourselves in a battle countrywide and we’re all fighting the same thing and there are people sacrificing their life on a daily basis to help us get through this.

“It will feel strange to play without fans. However, if that is one of the steps forward and that is agreed upon by the officials that I feel we need approval from, then that is how it has to be. There are people out there sacrificing their lives to help get us through this. When you talk about returning to golf it has to be done appropriately.”

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka doubts that PGA Tour will restart in mid-June.

“I hope we start in June. I just think it’s a little unrealistic,” Koepka said Wednesday in a live Q-and-A broadcast on Instagram conducted by his swing coach Claude Harmon III. “You have to think about all these guys that are going to be in airports flying everywhere. There are so many guys. Everything has to be cleaned. Is it really possible? I hope so. There is nothing more I’d love than to be back playing. I hope I’m wrong.”

The Bundesliga plans to resume behind closed doors next month, but German scientists are warning that it may be 18 months before it is felt that it is going to be safe to allow spectators back into stadiums. I suppose we need to ask ourselves just how badly we are missing live sport? And do we want it to return at any costs? 

Raucous crowds, cricket fans in ridiculous fancy dress, singing from the terraces, roars echoing through the trees at a golf tournament are what brings live sport alive. 

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