Bermuda Championship Preview, Picks & Analysis
WHY is the PGA Tour in such a hurry to get fans back out there? The Bermuda Championship will be the first event since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to welcome general admission spectators on-site at a tournament venue, despite the fact that Adam Scott has become the 15th player to test positive for the virus. Remember that world No1 Dustin Johnson was also forced to sit out two big-money tournaments are failing a test.
The PGA Tour and the Bermuda Government have jointly granted permission for a limited number of general admission spectators (limited to 500) per day for the second annual event at Port Royal Golf Course, with tickets for weekend selling out soon after they went on sale.
Spectator protocols will include temperature checks, wearing of face masks upon entry and around the golf course, social distancing with six feet of separation, and the use of hand sanitiser, with units placed throughout the venue, including entrances, restrooms and concession locations. For the safety of spectators and players, autographs will not be permitted. Of course we want to see things getting back to normal but one cannot help but question the wisdom of this decision.
Since the PGA Tour season re-started in June following a three-month shutdown due to Covid-19, tournaments have been held without the general public.
Bermuda has been widely recognised for its achievements in controlling the pandemic, with just a handful of cases. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) ranks the island at Level 2 and Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has waived its 14-day quarantine requirement for UK residents returning from Bermuda. The island also earned the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) “Safe Travels” Stamp, awarded to destinations with top health-safety protocols. Bermuda ranks highest in the Americas for per-capita testing, with more than 60,000 coronavirus tests carried out to date, and a vigilant contact-tracing process.
However, it has also emerged that the PGA Tour has taken the decision to allow fans into the Houston Open. While it might be true that Bermuda appears to have the virus under some kind of control, that certainly isn’t the case in the USA. Several players have already expressed serious reservations about playing in front of spectators in the week before The Masters - and that is hardly surprising. There have been almost 900,000 recorded cases of Covid-19 in Texas, with 18,000 people losing their lives.
There is no sign that cases are falling in Texas, and in that climate it defies belief that the powers-that-be seem prepared to put players, caddies, officials and members of the public at risk. There will be a time and a place to allow the public back in. This is not that time.
Phil Mickelson was due to compete in Texas but has now decided to opt to compete on the Champions Tour in the week before Augusta. And who can blame him? He won’t be the only one to withdraw.
“The Tour have done a phenomenal job of having us feel safe,” he said. “I am sure they will do a very good, safe job in having 2,000 people at the Houston Open but for me I don’t like the risk that having that happen the week before The Masters.
“Because it’s the first one out on the Tour with spectators I am unsure and I don’t want to take unnecessary risks. I don’t go out to dinner, I don’t go out and socialise because I want to make sure that I have an opportunity to compete in The Masters.”
The Tour had previously announced several significant changes to the tournament in Bermuda, including a $1m increase in prize money, 500 FedExCup points awarded to the winner, field-size expansion from 120 to 132 and the winner qualifying for The Masters.
When he arrived in Bermuda before the start of last year’s event Brendon Todd was ranked 525th in the world and had been considering whether he wanted to carry on playing tournament golf. A final round of 62, including seven birdies on the bounce on the front nine, gave him a four-shot victory. Today, he is 39th in the world. It has been quite a journey. Todd broke into the top 50 when he won the Byron Nelson Classic in 2014 but then his form deserted him. After his triumph in Bermuda he said: “A year ago I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep playing so it is really special to get this win. I had ball-striking yips, hitting a four iron 50 yards right out of play every round - and I did that for two years.”
He finished the truncated season with two victories and four Top-10 finishes. He recorded 12 straight rounds of 68 or better, becoming the second player since 1983 to accomplish that feat. He has worked hard to get back to where he is now and has become one of the most consistent performers on the PGA Tour. He will be back to defend his title and will bring great memories with him.
Brendon Todd. Will fancy a repeat victory
Russell Knox. Will surely be inspired by return to form of fellow Scot Martin Laird
Rasmus Hojgaard. This kid is the real deal
Brendon Todd. Remarkable comeback
Russell Knox. Slump cannot continue
Rasmus Hojgaard. Looking to make his mark away from Europe
Rafa Cabrera Bello. Has been struggling on the greens
Henrik Stenson. Desperately looking for a big week
Harold Varner III. Looking for that first win on the PGA Tour
Danny Willett. Back where he belongs
Aaron Wise. Has been struggling but a massive talent
Padraig Harrington. Still striking it beautifully at 49
Stewart Cink. Back in the winners’ circle again. Well, I never
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