News & Opinion

Is PGA Tour doing right thing by restarting in Hawaii?

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The 18th hole at Kapalua Resort’s Plantation Course

Based on success amid COVID-19, Tour has earned our trust, John Hawkins contends, but Mike Purkey points to holiday uncertainty

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Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the Hawk & Purk podcast on MorningRead.com, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Given the expected rise in COVID-19 cases over the holidays, is the PGA Tour doing the right thing by resuming its 2020-21 season on Jan. 7 in Hawaii?

Hawk’s take: It would be foolish to think there isn’t a heightened level of risk involved. A lot of players will have been home for more than a month by then, perhaps interacting with the public more than at other times of the year, but this particular scenario perfectly represents the difference between safe and scared. The Tour has done a terrific job of mitigating the pandemic’s effect on the competitive product to this point, and for that reason alone, the season should continue as scheduled.

Camp Ponte Vedra has earned our trust over the last six months, having consistently exercised all practical precautions in protecting the welfare of the players and caddies. That said, I’m not crazy about the idea of admitting 8,000 fans to the Phoenix Open in early February. That feels like a risk not worth the reward – at least for now – but again, the Tour isn’t going to jeopardize anyone’s health and would shut down TPC Scottsdale to spectators altogether if the situation warrants such action over the next six weeks.

From a fiscal standpoint, the Tour will generate plenty of revenue, regardless of whether fans are allowed on the grounds. Those big television contracts resolve that issue. From there, the whole COVID-19 quandary becomes a simple matter of common sense. Since the June 11 restart, the Tour has proved to have plenty of that, too. Play on, fellas.

Purk’s take: Doctors and scientists say that the winter months are likely to be worst the U.S. has experienced with coronavirus. A significant part of the reason is that people undoubtedly will travel during the holiday season, and large family gatherings have the potential of being super-spreader events.

Professional golf will not be immune. Now that healthcare workers are the first in line to get the new vaccine or vaccines, the natural response would be for people to relax and begin to move life back to some semblance of “normal.” That would be a mistake, especially on the PGA Tour.

I’m not saying the Tour should shut down, but I don’t believe the Hawaii events in January are essential. The Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua isn’t much more than a vehicle for the sponsors to entertain their clients in Hawaii in January. That’s certainly not happening. Nearly all the players bring families, but that won’t allowed, either. The same can be said for the Sony Open in Hawaii, except it’s a full field.

If the Tour would pause the start of the 2021 season, it would allow plenty of time for extensive testing after the holidays and allow anyone who happened to become infected with mild symptoms to recover and those exposed to quarantine without missing tournaments. Nothing’s wrong with starting the season in Palm Springs during the third week in January. Hawaii will be there next year.

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