Golf makes a conservative return with an eye on the long run

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan went from whether golf would be played this year to a schedule that will resume next week with a calendar filled with Thanksgiving.

What hasn’t changed is his belief that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over just because golf is back.

“I don’t think it’s over,” Monahan said in a telephone interview on Friday. “I have real confidence in the plan. But, given the uncertainty, you spend a lot of your time thinking about scenarios that could play out. That’s what we keep doing. We won’t feel comfortable until we’re told that we can feel comfortable. That’s when we have a vaccine and there is no risk. “

Golf is the second major sports league to return to NASCAR, which started racing three weeks ago and ran nine national races in 14 days.

The Charles Schwab Challenge next week in Fort Worth, Texas has one of the strongest fields in Colonial’s rich history, starting with the top five players in the world rankings.

There will be no spectators for at least a month, although Texas government leader Greg Abbott has moved the state to phase III this week in the recovery that allows 50% capacity outdoor events.

“We’ve developed a safety plan that doesn’t include spectators. That’s what we stand for,” said Monahan. “We want sustainable returns. When you think of a run to go through the FedEx Cup, we want to make sure we do not take unnecessary risks from week to week. “

Monahan said he is “not the arbiter of confidence,” but rather comes from the guidance of health experts at all levels and a plan that tests players, caddies, and essential staff as many as twice a week – to try to bubble create for traveling circus that is golf.

Players were sent a test kit and advised to use it before traveling. They are tested when they arrive at tournaments and before they leave if they are on charter flights that the tour has arranged, then the process is repeated at the next tournament. Daily thermal measurements and health examinations are required, as well as disinfection and social distance.

“It’s the only way we can return,” he said.

The tour added another layer this week in a deal with Sanford Health, based in South Dakota, to have mobile labs for each tournament, with the capacity to achieve results in a matter of hours without taking resources from the markets where they play.

Monahan said CBS Sports is creating its own bubble for the broadcast, with Jim Nantz the only person in the booth and other analysts working remotely.

Ninety days have passed from the opening round of The Players Championship, which was canceled the following day, to the first tee shot on Colonial.

“We all went home with the same questions,” he said. How do I get a complete picture of where we are with the virus and all its elements? How do we recognize that we are disabling (canceling) 11 events? How do you feel about resuming and at the same time develop a safety and testing program, not our field? ”

The reset began with majors picking new dates – the British Open was canceled – with the PGA Championship in San Francisco to August 6-9, the US Open in New York on September 17-20, and the Masters on November. 12-15.

“At the time, it was very unclear where we would be with safety and testing,” said Monahan. “It could have been earlier than us, it could have been next year’s points. Information changed by the minute. ‘

With golf returning, Monahan was unable to predict when spectators would return. He said the tour has worked with tournaments in recent years to build up a reserve fund for a crisis like this.

“If you don’t sell tickets and there is no hospitality, you don’t have the pro-am experience or the honorary observer program for the sponsor … that has a big financial impact on those tournaments and the impact on how tournaments with are interconnected with their communities, ”he said.

Tournaments and their title sponsors have still managed to raise money for their local charities. The Zurich Classic matched a $ 1.5 million donation to a child aid foundation last year. The John Deere Classic expects $ 10 million in donations even though he canceled his event in July.

The pandemic is not the only topic of conversation, as golf is trying to get back on track. The Friday tour posted the letter from Monahan to staff and players about the civil unrest in the country, which the AP first reported on Tuesday. He had killed a 10-minute video call with Harold Varner III, one of three PGA Tour members of black descent who passionately wrote about George Floyd on social media, when a white police officer held a knee to Floyd’s neck while the black man was handcuffed.

The talk was scheduled for the protests to begin, and Varner was chosen because he was on the players’ advisory board and golf was ready to resume.

“We’ll talk about COVID and civil and social unrest for a while,” said Monahan. “Next week will be no exception in that regard.”

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