JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The PGA Tour is calling its first tournament back a success.
It’s been just over three months since the PGA Tour canceled the final three rounds of the Players Championship in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.
And last week’s tournament at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth really served as a test case for how the Tour, and potentially, other leagues, will handle competitions in an era without a vaccine. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said they learned quite a bit this week and they plan on sharing that information with commissioners of other leagues in the sports industry.
“I think the biggest concern given the amount of time that we put into our testing and safety protocols was that even though we felt really good about the plan we had in place if we saw the number of tests that were positive or we got into a situation where we were dealing with a number of positive tests, that's something, candidly, that I lost a lot of sleep over in the weeks that preceded coming in there,” Monahan said.
“A lot of challenges. But I would say that would probably have been the biggest concern because it's the one that we've all been dealing with, wrestling with, trying to understand and trying to prepare for.”
As it turned out, there was no need for sleepless nights. There were no positive tests for COVID-19 from any of the players or caddies last week at Colonial Country Club. One player and three caddies tested positive at the Korn Ferry Tour event at Dye’s Valley at TPC Sawgrass.
Webb Simpson is playing for the second straight week and he was impressed at the system the Tour has set up to keep everyone safe. He admitted that the greatest danger was likely to be found away from the site of the tournaments.
“They have strict protocols while we're on-site, but off-site, it's kind of up to us to be smart,” Simpson said. “I think we're seeing, with numbers spiking in various states, that people took this very seriously the first couple of months and I think the spike is probably because people are relaxing.”
Golfers have also had to adjust their expectations with no crowds on the course. After making a big putt or slamming a long drive, there is almost no reaction.
“I think we're all dealing with the atmosphere, but I've loved the competition,” Justin Rose said.
“Down the stretch, I was still feeling the butterflies and I was still very aware of what it means to win on the PGA Tour and all the FedExCup points and World Ranking points. As a player, you know what's on the line, but yeah, we are — there's one element missing for sure, but was definitely grateful to be out here playing, and hopefully putting on a good show for everybody at home and people are enjoying watching golf again.”
The tour will continue this week in Hilton Head, also without fans. Also, of note, the Korn Ferry Tour, the feeder tour to the PGA Tour, moves from Dye’s Valley to the King & Bear for a tournament that begins Wednesday and runs through Saturday.