News & Opinion

PGA Tour restarts schedule too soon

A mid-June resumption will be unrealistic because the coronavirus pandemic has yet to peak in the U.S. After all, who would want to be in a crowd at a golf tournament just 2 months from now?

Monday was a big day for golf news as the top professional tours and governing bodies provided a glimpse of what they are thinking of a revised 2020 tournament schedule amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the preview had been reported piecemeal by other media outlets, but seeing it in print from the USGA, R&A, PGA of America, Augusta National and the PGA and LPGA tours provided a different perspective.

The Masters
The bloom will be off the azaleas in mid-November when the Masters is scheduled to be played at Augusta National, with Tiger Woods expected to return to defend his title.

The first PGA Tour event potentially will start June 18, during the week that had been set aside for the U.S. Open. It’s when the Memorial Tournament likely will be played.

The PGA Championship would move to Aug. 6-9, the U.S. Open to Sept. 17-20 and the Ryder Cup would stay in its original dates of Sept. 25-27, with the Masters moving to Nov. 12-15. The R&A opted not to play the British Open this year.

All other open dates will be filled with PGA Tour events.

As good as it looks to have a revised season in the works, the decision to reopen professional golf in mid-June is premature. Preparing for the future is important, but putting in print exact dates seems rash and, at this point as the coronavirus pandemic has yet to peak in the U.S., highly speculative.

One of the biggest issues that will have to be addressed for these dates to be validated will be approval from local and state officials to allow large groups, often numbering in the thousands, to congregate at a golf tournament.

Lessons learned from the 1918 Spanish flu, during which mistakes were made with mitigation and led to an estimated 50 million deaths worldwide, makes any type of proclamation just plain scary. Hundreds of coronavirus-related fatalities still are being announced daily in the U.S.

It’s also important to realize that the current reduced numbers of infections and deaths are due to the use of mitigation, which includes social distancing, i.e., remaining 6 feet or more from others.

Inherently, a golf tournament is the exact opposite of social distancing.

The further that the revised tournament schedule extends into August and September, the dates would seem to be more secure. None of us has lived through a pandemic like this one. Even the infectious-disease experts differ on when we might get back to some semblance of normalcy. Thus, drafting a tournament schedule that starts in mid-June appears to be too ambitious.

Of course, it’s just a proposed schedule, not yet confirmed, but it seems to be offering hope to everyone that golf is not only coming back in 2020, but sooner than many of us might have thought.

I trust that the executives at the tours and golf associations would not put on a golf tournament if there were a chance that anyone’s health would be at abnormal risk, but we still are learning about the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, and many health professionals are leery of making any pronouncements or putting any schedules together until they know more.

We need to know more before even drafting schedules in pencil, much less pen.

Just be prepared to be disappointed if the third week of June does not feature professional golf.

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