News & Opinion

Don’t panic amid this pandemic, golf fans

Making the Players Championship safe for public consumption requires an unconventional approach

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The world is going to hell in a shrimp boat. Just look around.

Fans have been barred from the upcoming March Madness basketball games. Slovakia suspended all cultural and sports events. (Luckily, the Players Championship is here in Florida this week and not in Slovakia.) Ireland, Boston and Chicago canned St. Patrick’s Day parades.

2013 The Players Championship  First Round
Play will go on as scheduled this week at TPC Sawgrass, but don’t let the postcard-like scene fool you, Morning Read correspondent Gary Van Sickle advises.

Pro basketball, hockey and baseball banned media scum from locker rooms. That should stop coronavirus, or CV as I call it, because locker-room interviews with athletes are what’s behind this global pandemic, not cruise ships that are self-contained germ labs or airline flights where the next time a snack tray is sanitized will be the first time.

Italy is essentially locked down. Yeah, the entire country.

I won’t even mention my 101(k), which used to be a 401(k) before the recent stock-market slump, because it’s too depressing.

Coronavirus is fouling up the world. Let’s not allow it to ruin the Players at TPC Sawgrass, too.

I’m covering the Players as if it’s business as usual, but I am taking precautions. No more handshakes in the media center here. I’m doing only fist-bumps. And I’m definitely not kissing any players.

I’m not wearing one of those masks that are popular in China. (Yeah, if they’re so great, how come so many Chinese have gotten sick?) The experts say masks don’t get it done. So, I’m wearing a football helmet. The faceguard should keep others from getting too close or breathing near my face. My breath, if you want to know, has been sanitized for safety by industrial-strength Tic Tacs and currently carries a delightful mango scent.

Look, we’ve got to live our lives. Otherwise, the terrorists – CV, in this instance – will win. I don’t want to end up self-quarantined at home watching “Mannix” reruns because the rest of Earth has been canceled.

What else can we do to make the Players safe for public consumption? I mean, besides the obvious of passing out football helmets to all spectators? I conferred with a panel of experts – two were running fevers, which was odd, but I’m sure that doesn’t mean anything. We came up with a few safety suggestions. You’re welcome in advance …

All fans coming to TPC Sawgrass must wear oven mitts. Our experts believe that regular gloves, or even cabretta-leather golf gloves, might not do the trick because CV germs have half-lives like plutonium and can exist on those surfaces for more than 72 holes. Oven mitts are safer because they discourage unhealthy practices such as face-touching, high-fiving and nose-picking.

Also, oven mitts must be worn by fans while using the port-o-johns, which will also discourage the use of port-o-johns. We know those mini-outhouses are virtual nuclear reactors when it comes to growing contagious diseases, especially when they heat up to 125 degrees every day in the Florida sun.

Hey, Italy! You wanna stop the virus? Lock all of your port-o-johns.

At Sawgrass, wrapping stations should be set up near each tee box. Spectators should use the complimentary Saran Wrap – presented by Dow Chemical, the inventor – to cover any exposed-skin areas (arms, legs, necks) and prevent pores from leaking CV-laden sweat that could be passed from fan-to-fan, fan-to-dog or fan-to-grass blade, where ants could catch it, take it underground, spread it to the water table and infect a whole region. With CV, I think we all agree, we can’t be too careful.

A lot of caddies and even some players touch the flagsticks. We recommend that no flagsticks be used. Hey, the players have pin sheets; that’s good enough. If the pampered players insist on having pins, fine, but each green should have a designated flagstick remover, dressed in hazmat gear, to safely remove and replace the pin.

And with players often reaching into the cup to retrieve golf balls, the cup will be sanitized by a bleach-spraying power washer after each group putts out, followed by a laser detoxifier.

Fan interaction with players will be eliminated until further notice. It’s simply too risky. The case of Jon Rahm, the No. 2-ranked player in the world, is a good example.

“I have an 85-year-old grandma with asthma, and I know it’s a respiratory virus,” Rahm said Tuesday. “So, I know she’s a target. My brother has asthma; my wife, Kelley, has asthma; Kelley’s mom has asthma. There are so many cases close to me that it could affect, so it is obviously my duty and everyone’s to do as much as we can to prevent it.

“I love to fist-bump and high-five kids, but it might be the one week where we don’t do that. I also love to sign autographs, and I might restrain from that, too. Not from being selfish; I just feel like it might be the best thing for everybody.”

Rahm is right. We shouldn’t leave any stone unturned. Some reports from China, where CV began (even though the Chinese are trying to brainwash their citizens into believing it actually started in the U.S.), indicate the virus may be related to assorted animal meats being stored together in an unsanitary manner.

That’s why our panel suggests that all birds should be eliminated from the Sawgrass grounds. It would be easy – but cruel – to shoot them. So, the birds should be stunned by sonic waves, carefully bundled into cages and monitored to make sure they’re not carrying CV. Once we’re sure the birds are healthy, they will be released. Any birds that have CV will be disposed of in a humane fashion. But don’t worry. We’ll make their deaths look like suicides.

Fan safety at Sawgrass is paramount. Areas where spectators gather in large groups should be minimized. There is no evidence that indicates CV is transmitted by fresh water, so we suggest eliminating grandstands behind the 17th tee and moving the fans into the pond around the 17th green. Inner tubes, life vests and rafts will be provided, free of charge, so fans can float for hours in the pond and enjoy golf without fear of infection.

The threat of an unsuspecting, floating spectator getting hit by an errant tee shot will add to the pressure felt by players as they stand on the tee of this infamous hole, and add to the drama. So, play away, gents. I’m rooting for strong winds.

Finally, all players and fans should wear wristbands that monitor heart rate, breathing rate and body temperature. This will enable the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor potential fevers and make sure no outbreak of CV happens at Sawgrass, and if it does, to be quickly contained.

How do we contain infected fans? You know, the same way we took care of the birds.


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