Tour Confidential: Did the PGA Tour announce its revised schedule prematurely?
Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week we discuss professional golf’s revised schedule, the option to play without fans, the week without the Masters, and more.
1. The PGA Tour and golf’s governing bodies announced their revised tournament dates last week, meaning golf became the first sport to go public with a new-look schedule. (The PGA Championship is moving to August, the U.S. Open to September and the Masters to November, while the British Open has been canceled. The first event on the PGA Tour calendar, for now, is the Charles Schwab Challenge in late May, though the Tour sent a memo to players that said it was unlikely play would resume that soon.) With the future of the coronavirus still largely unknown, the did the organizing bodies announce the new schedule prematurely?
Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): No, I don’t think so. While it seems impossible that they’d resume play at the Chuck Schwab Challenge in May, I like having the idea of some majors to look forward to. This way, golf’s decision-makers are more transparently taking us into the unknown alongside them. Hope is a good thing!
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer (@Alan_Shipnuck): I understand the Tour wanting to offer hope, but it feels very premature. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has sounded very skeptical that any kind of sports will resume before September – and probably later than that. I think that’s the realist’s answer.
Josh Sens, senior writer (@JoshSens): It’s natural to want to feel like you’re doing something, anything, in the face of all this sheltering and waiting, and announcing a schedule was exactly that. But I’ve read a number of reports from public health experts saying that we shouldn’t be expecting large gatherings until late fall at the very earliest. Maybe they can pull these events off with no fans. Let’s hope so. But as Alan says, we’ve got to balance that hope with realism.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer: It did not seem like a deeply considered statement. When you offer a possible schedule and say on the outset that it’s not really likely, I don’t understand the point.
2. In the memo, the Tour also said playing without fans is an option when play resumes. Do you like the idea of the Tour potentially returning without spectators? Or would you rather see the Tour wait until health organizations deem events safe for both players and fans?
Dethier: It seems like a tightrope walk to find a lane where it would be safe for players, caddies, officials, media and volunteers but not fans. If they can do it, people are thirsting for live sports! Golf fans would go nuts for more golf. So I’m open to the idea — it’s just a high bar to clear.
Shipnuck: Even without fans, many hundreds of people have to come together from all over the country for a tournament to happen. If it’s not safe for fans, I’m not sure how you could ask caddies, TV technicians and Tour support staff to fly in from all over the country.
Sens: While I wouldn’t mind watching an event without fans, I wonder if the Tour will be able to pull it off. Even with minimal infrastructure, a professional tournament is like a roving carnival. Lots of people and equipment to move around. No doubt the Tour is well aware of this and will make its decision accordingly. As we said above, this whole proposed schedule has a lot of big ‘ifs’ embedded in it.
Bamberger: A PGA Tour event without fans would feel very strange, but I have been to many senior events where there are entire holes on which you do not see a single spectator. Is it ideal? Of course not. Can it be done safely? I think it can. Is it better than not having a tournament at all? If I had a vote, I would say yes. Tournament golf improves people’s lives.
3. Do you see fan-less events being an advantage or disadvantage to any players in particular?
Dethier: Advantageous for Tiger Woods’ playing partners, who love the vibe but no doubt face extra challenges playing alongside mega-crowds. Disadvantageous for Brooks Koepka, who has a hard time convincing himself that Tour events matter as it is.
Bamberger: I think players like playing in Tiger’s crowd. Makes them feel like they are in the big leagues. Plus, fans stop errant shots. Plus, something to tell the grandkids.
Shipnuck: Patrick Reed and Ian Poulter will he stoked!
Sens: Good calls above. What about Phil? I suppose he could flash that goofy grin and thumbs-up to the cameras only, but somehow it just wouldn’t seem appropriately corny.
Bamberger: They will all hit it shorter without fans there. That’s good for the shorter hitters, if you can find one.
4. Tiger Woods made some noise this week, with social media posts about his Champions Dinner at home and his do-it-yourself Magnolia Lane, and a pair of interviews. He says he’s been keeping his game sharp and would have been ready had the Masters been played this week. Anything in particular from Woods catch your eye or ear?
Dethier: He looks like he’s gotten plenty of gym time in — hasn’t missed arms day, at least. He sounds happy and reflective. This has changed him a tiny bit, like it’s changed all of us. Tiger Woods working on a 3,000-word puzzle? Never imagined it, but here we are. Tiger at home.
Sens: If he takes up macrame, I’m going to be worried. One thing I wondered: Who did the cooking?
Shipnuck: I want his backyard.
Bamberger: The dessert-course, intra-family cupcake fight. As Tiger described it, I had the feeling he needed to win that, too.
5. What would have been Masters week was marked by an endless string of Masters 2019 tributes and “rewatches.” In revisiting Tiger’s historic win a year later, what most resonated with you, or surprised you?
Dethier: Just how many times Francesco Molinari challenges the water on the back nine. Yeah, his ballstriking was a little sketchy on the front, but he was still burying putts in the center of the cup, over and over and over. The back nine hits, and all goes to hell. He barely sneaks inside the edge of the water on 11, obviously finds it on 12, just clears it on 13, finds it once — and nearly twice! — on 15, then barely makes the front of the green on 16. The guy made two doubles on the back nine, but things could have been much, much worse. And he’s never been the same.
Shipnuck: Just how perfectly it all played out on Sunday for Tiger. The storm that put him in the final threesome, his ball finding a perfect landing spot way right on 11, all the water balls on 12 (obviously), his snap hook on 13 tee hitting the tree and richoching into the fairway, then Brooks and Dustin making enough mistakes coming home to never really apply severe pressure. Tiger flushed it coming home, but it’s still hard to believe he shot 70 and still had some cush on the last two holes.
Bamberger: You could say the opposite, Alan. He made a bogey on 10. Not an auspicious start to the start of the tournament. He hit it a mile right on 11. His lag putt on 12 was way short. He slipped on 13, and that ball could have gone anywhere. I don’t know what he did on those first two shots on 18. BUT that second shot on 15 was perfection. Tee shot on 16. First two shots on 17. He showed you don’t have to be perfect to win.
Sens: His pure exulting when the final putt dropped, and the electricity of the crowd, I mean, patrons. I also found myself rewatching the disaster-that-almost-was on Friday, when that security guard slipped and came inches from sending Tiger to another surgery. A lot needed to go right for Tiger that week, including a moment that nearly went wrong.
6. With no Masters, no roars and no pimento cheese sandwiches, how did you fill the void on Sunday afternoon?
Dethier: By watching the entire Masters from last year! CBS and the gang ran the whole thing back, and got Tiger to join for some bits. It was all a blast and capped off nicely with Tiger’s play-by-play of his post-win family celebration. Investing some time and energy into the re-air paid off enormously — it’s hard to imagine ever approaching it again. But I’d love it if we get to try in November …
Shipnuck: Actually, I enjoyed all of those things (at least in my mind) while conjuring GOLF.com’s exclusive coverage of the (fictional) 2020 Masters.
Sens: Donned a mask, went to the supermarket and cooked a big Champions Dinner for the family.
Bamberger: Drove a green car on hilly roads near my house. Felt like a vacation.
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