News & Opinion

Count your blessings, golf fans

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan at 2020 PGA Championship
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who is masked for protection during the recent PGA Championship, has revealed his true leadership abilities.

The mesmerizing PGA Championship never would have happened if the PGA Tour hadn’t been a leader in restarting play, with proper safety precautions, 2½ months ago. So, enjoy the rest of the golf season and try not to fret about the absence of football this fall

As golf fans, do we know how lucky we are?

Many of us likely take for granted that professional golf on the PGA Tour has been going on for 2½ months amid the global coronavirus pandemic. Other major pro sports have struggled to restart or maintain schedules. With the exception of a handful of players and caddies on the PGA Tour who tested positive for COVID-19 a few weeks ago, likely because they didn’t take the health-and-safety guidelines seriously, professional golf has been relatively virus-free.

Players, caddies and staff have done yeoman’s work to remain coronavirus-free and maintain the protective “bubble” each week while producing high-drama entertainment.

Collin Morikawa’s chip-in on the 14th hole Sunday at TPC Harding Park in the PGA Championship was exceptional, but his tee shot and subsequent eagle conversion on the par-4 16th will stand out among the greatest shots down the stretch in a major championship. And he’s only 23. But to emerge under that pressure, even with the absence of spectators, makes the play that much more incredible.

If PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan hadn’t taken the necessary steps to bring golf back in early June after a three-month suspension, the PGA of America never would have held the 102nd PGA Championship. Golf fans would have missed some of the best golf we have seen in some time.

We are lucky to get to watch the world’s best golfers, including those on the European, LPGA and Korn Ferry tours and at the top levels of the amateur game.

Before the leaders teed off Sunday in San Francisco, the U.S. Women’s Amateur final was being contested in Maryland. It was a thriller, with 17-year-old Rose Zhang, a Californian who has committed to Stanford, edging defending champion Gabriela Ruffels, a 20-year-old Australian and Southern Cal senior, on the 38th hole.

The storyline wasn’t the same as what Morikawa had authored on the other side of the country, but it proved to be memorable nonetheless, with a marathon involving two of the projected future stars of the women’s game.

Match play, in my mind, always is more compelling than stroke play. So, when a major match-play event is available to follow on your cellphone, tablet or television, it’s worth the time invested.

Thankfully, golf has adults in the room when making important decisions about the health and safety of its players.

That clearly is not the case with college football. As we learn more and more about this virus, it becomes clear that no one is immune. The thinking that being stricken with COVID-19 as a young age means little more than a cold or mild case of the flu is ignorant and, I’m willing to say, criminal at this point.

Which brings me back to university presidents and athletic directors. They are the ones deciding whether college football should be played this year. Why it’s even a debate is beyond me, because the evidence is abundantly clear that they cannot keep players safe, no matter what they do.

Yet, these same individuals have decided that other sports should be shelved immediately, even though they have proved that, with the proper safeguards, as the PGA Tour and other leagues such as the NBA and NHL have shown, sports can take place with very low risk to the athletes.

But we always come back to football, a sport that inherently cannot be played with social distancing, one of the tenets of stopping the virus’ spread.

Golf, tennis and swimming can provide safe entertainment during this pandemic, but those sports in the college ranks have been shut down for the fall.

The PGA Tour has created a pathway for other sports to follow, and all golf fans should be glad that the pro game took the step. The return to full competition still lacks spectators, and they won’t return any time soon.

But right now, I’ll accept the game’s leading position among other sports and hope that the prudence exhibited in getting professional golf started will continue to be a guiding light for other important decisions.

Sign up to receive the Morning Read newsletter, along with Where To Golf Next and The Equipment Insider.