Finally the week has arrived when golf fans can enjoy the competitive nature of tournament golf again, writes ANDRE HUISAMEN.
The Charles Schwab Challenge starting on Thursday is the end of a two-and-a-half month absence of the PGA TOUR and the first ‘real’ golf since the opening round of the PLAYERS Championship in March when then in-form South African star Christiaan Bezuidenhout flew out of the blocks at TPC Sawgrass.
No one could have predicted what the short- or long-term future of golf would hold for fans the moment PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan cancelled the PLAYERS following the close of round one’s play.
Friday, 13 March indeed became a significant day for golf and global sport as whole as cancellations and postponements made headlines instead of low scores and come from behind victories.
However, the start of a new week brought with it the PGA Tour’s announcement of the featured groups for the restart of the 2020 season. These groups as well as the return to some sense of normality in the wake of lockdowns and coronavirus update brings fresh excitement and optimism for the game in general.
What better way to kickstart a revised schedule – full of compromise – than to have the three best players in the world tee off together at the Colonial Country Club?
It will indeed be strange and somewhat peculiar to see the world’s best go at it without any spectators cheering them on. And when the winner on Sunday celebrates, he will do so without a roar of approval from the grandstand that surrounds the 18th green.
But, one feels the general feeling among fans is gratitude for the work by the PGA Tour during these troubled times to get the ball rolling again.
Confirmation that fans will be allowed to attend at the Memorial Tournament again bodes well for a return to what we used to know and a major boost for the unpredictable future of the game. It provides great belief that there is still so much to salvage from 2020.
I think the following six to eight weeks will set the trend for what the game will look like until the health organisations and governments call an end to the current pandemic.
It will also prove significant for the three Majors to come later this year and quite possibly the Ryder Cup, all of which have the issue of spectators front and centre of their to-do lists.
Suddenly the race for the FedEx Cup has also gathered new importance with a number of previous winners in action this week. The controversial reintroduction of the Official World Golf Ranking at the Charles Schwab Challenge will immediately add the ‘all to play for’ factor, almost as if golf never took a two-month break.
The PGA Tour has a massive role to play as golf pro sport gradually returns to fairways around the world. It will ultimately decide to how fans enjoy coverage of golf for the rest of the year. They do so, though, safe in the knowledge that their millions of followers are eager to see names such as McIlroy, Mickelson, Koepka and Fowler on their TVs again.