News & Opinion

Will PGA Tour’s plan to return be enough?

Players and caddies will be tested early and often during next month’s restart in Fort Worth, and access will be highly limited at Colonial, but the Tour faces a huge responsibility against an unseen enemy in coronavirus

It might be overstating the PGA Tour’ s decision to restart professional golf next month as a daunting task.

Usually, such a phrase is reserved for monumental points in history. With the 80th anniversary of VE Day celebrated last week, the term makes me think about World War II and what it must have felt like when then-Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill was summoned by England’s King George VI to form a new government after the German invasion of France in May 1940.

Jay Monahan
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan

Or, when U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was forced to turn a stunned nation into a world juggernaut after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

These were monumental occurrences that created daunting tasks not only for Churchill and Roosevelt but for residents of the United Kingdom, the United States and the world at large.

What PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and his staff are doing in preparing to restart play next month pales in comparison with the historic events of the past century, but they still are nonetheless daunting, perhaps even terrifying.

Monahan and the Tour must take hundreds of lives into their hands and ensure their safety in the face of an invisible enemy such as coronavirus. That task might strike each person differently against the definition of a daunting task.

On Wednesday, the PGA Tour provided a look at its Health and Safety Plan for returning to tournament golf, beginning June 11 at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas.

Originally scheduled for May, the tournament was part of a massive remake of the 2020 schedule since the Players Championship was suspended after the first round March 12. The restart at Colonial Country Club will be an intimate affair, as PGA Tour events go. No fans, family, agents or managers, limited media, tightly controlled access to players plus restrictions on equipment representatives, among other measures, will attempt to keep the coronavirus in check.

In short, what typically would be a bustling 200-acre tournament site each week will be locked down as tightly as possible. The goal: create the safest possible environment for players, caddies and other onsite personnel.

But, will it be enough?

It’s a question that cannot be answered ahead of the restart, against a tenacious viral enemy.

On paper, the PGA Tour seemingly has taken every conceivable step to ensure participants’ safety. The key will be how the policies are implemented, and the players’ and caddies’ observance of those rules. Many incalculable risks will exist.

I’ve maintained throughout the two-month suspension of play that Monahan’s toughest decision would be when to restart. Now, the Tour has added additional pressure to be a leader in sports.

“We're excited about how the PGA Tour can play a role here in the world's return, if you will, to enjoying things we love and doing so in a responsible manner,” Tyler Dennis, the Tour’s senior vice president and chief of operations, said on a conference call Wednesday. “Our players are excited about the opportunity of our restart.”

After NASCAR, which will restart its season Sunday at Darlington, S.C., the Tour will be the next major professional sport to restart play. However, setting an example for other sports is a tall order that should be secondary to safety.

Which gets us back to the virus. The PGA Tour is implementing a more comprehensive program than what has come down from the federal government, which has had months of lead time and billions of dollars at its disposal to combat a pandemic that has infected 1.41 million Americans and killed about 84,000.

Again, will it be enough?

The Tour seems to have contemplated every eventuality, but whether it will be enough won’t be known until the second week of June.

Hopefully, it will be.

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