Doubts Raised About PGA Tour's Scheduled Return
THE PGA Tour has now confirmed that it is aiming to restart the season with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 11 and plans to complete a season that will comprise 36 tournaments but Francesco Molinari has asked whether it can really happen.
Andy Pazder, chief tournament and competitions officer, and chief of operations Tyler Dennis have been trying to explain how they see things panning out.
It has been confirmed that the first four events will be played without fans, which will allow tournaments to stay in compliance with social distancing guidelines. Pazder said only people essential to conducting the tournament will be allowed – players, caddies, tournament rules officials, broadcast team, and a select number of people from the host organisations.
Naturally there are serious concerns about coronavirus testing. Dennis said: “We're in an evaluation mode learning about the testing, building out what we think could work from a testing protocol, and we'll certainly have more information on that over the next couple weeks and months.” Dennis said it is possible that players will be tested before they leave home, “then proper hygiene and travel protocols as you travel towards the venue, possibly then testing that would go on in a safe and as clean an environment as we can make, both in terms of what you're doing in your daily routine at the golf course but also at the host hotel and dinners and all that.”
He insists that the Tour will abide by social distancing guidelines and that clean and sanitary conditions will be provided.
Pazder added the players who may not feel comfortable can make their own decisions whether to compete. “That's one of the beauties of being a PGA Tour member; you're an independent contractor,” Pazder said. “You're not required to be at any PGA Tour event. So they have that discretion to play tournaments where they favor the golf course or tournaments or in this instance, they may or may not feel comfortable. But that's an individual player decision.”
Of course there are concerns over travel restrictions - don’t forget that many golfers who play on the PGA Tour do not live in America. How will those who live in, say, Europe or Australia be expected to get to Fort Worth? And where will they stay if they can get there? “We are paying very close attention to if and when travel restrictions are changed,” Pazder said.
Molinari has questioned whether it is going to be possible for anybody based in Europe to be able to get there, and has also suggested that the Ryder Cup should be put off until 2021. Molinari, who lives in England, said: “The news of a restart of the PGA Tour has been going around but nobody seems very convinced. However, it seems that they really want to play. I think it will be practically impossible for European golfers to fly to the United States. June 11 is too close. It restarts in Texas, but various states are in lockdown. In California, for example, they have quarantine and it will be complicated even further to move from one part of the USA to another.
“And I cannot imagine the Ryder Cup being played without fans, so it should be held next year."
Under the revised schedule, there will now be 36 tournaments – including the three FedExCup Playoffs events -- in the 2019-20 season, compared to the original schedule of 49 tournaments. With 75% of the schedule still intact, along with increased field sizes to 144 players for the Charles Schwab Challenge, the Memorial Tournament and the RBC Heritage, Pazder said: “We do feel, and our player directors on our policy board also feel, that if we are able to conclude a schedule that has 36 events, that would constitute a credible FedExCup season.”
There will be no adjustments in the FedExCup points structure for the regular season events in the current season. But Pazder did say Tour officials are evaluating a potential change with the first two FedExCup Playoffs events, “given that roughly 25% of our season has been cancelled, taking about 30%t of total FedEx points out of the equation.”
The first two Playoffs events, The Northern Trust and the BMW Championship, offer four times the value of points from the regular season, but conversations with the Player Advisory Council and player directors have involved potentially reducing the points to three times the value. The 2020-21 season that now will include two Masters and two US Opens, Pazder said there are no plans to adjust the points structure. The majors and The Players Championship are the only tournaments to offer a maximum of 600 points to the winner, meaning there will now be seven of those events instead of the usual five.
Meanwhile, Richie Ramsay says he is disappointed that the Scottish Open has been postponed but admits it was inevitable and doubts if his home tournament can be rescheduled in 2020.
It was due to be held in North Berwick from 9-12 July but has become the latest European Tour event to be postponed amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The Scottish Open postponement didn't come as a real surprise," Ramsay, 36, told BBC Radio Scotland. "But at the same time, I think everybody would agree that it's the correct decision. It's a very tough situation but safety comes first.
"It's good that it's been postponed and not cancelled, but a lot of these things are outside our control at the moment. The reality is that as much as you pencil in dates, nobody knows.
"It's tough because weather is an issue. We have a shorter season because we're so far north, and then there's a scramble for dates at the moment, everyone's trying to pencil in dates and see if they can fit in.
"I understand the PGA Tour are looking at June for a restart and I think that's very ambitious. But we've got a different set of circumstances in Europe with degrees of regulations in countries."
Ramsay has not played European Tour golf since the Qatar Masters at the beginning of March, and, like the rest of us, has been trying to rmake the most of things while lockdown restrictions are in place.
"I get more opportunity to spend with my daughter and at home," he said. "I get to do things that golfers don't get to do all the time, like sit and have a nice breakfast with your family in the morning and then going out for your exercise, playing games in the garden and getting on top of a little bit of work outside. I'm making sure my body's good so that, when we do come back, I'm ready to go."
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