It feels like a very, very long time ago that the Players Championship was cancelled on that Thursday evening at the end of March, serving as a culmination of a week of speculation regarding whether the tournament was safe to go ahead due to the dangers of COVID-19.
Clearly the right decision was made to cancel the event, and in hindsight it should probably have never started. But on Thursday, almost three months later, we are set to see the resumption of competitive golf on the PGA Tour with the Charles Schwab Challenge.
This is a big moment not only for golf, but for sport in general. A game which attracts a global audience, with a full star-studded field present indicates that competitive sport can once again be played safely given that all the correct precautions and regulations are followed.
This will be our first look at the ‘new normal’ in terms of live sport for the medium term at least. Yes, you’re probably sick of hearing that term already but prepare to hear it a lot more over the coming weeks and months!
The PGA Tour resumes this week with the Charles Schwab Challenge, which will take place behind closed doors at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.
Colonial is one of the long-standing names on the PGA Tour schedule, having hosted an event each year since the mid 1940s, and so perhaps is a nice place to restart at a classical golf course with a rich heritage.
However if you’re tuning in because you want to see the likes of McIlroy and DJ bombing drivers everywhere, or if you’re curious as to whether the new-look, beefed-up Bryson can keep his ball on the course since he’s started swinging like a Long Drive pro, you may be a little disappointed.
It’s a tight, old-fashioned par 70 which just creeps over 7,000 yards at its longest and a large number of the top have little to no course knowledge, meaning that you’re probably going to see more positional play with the real action coming around the greens.
When that is considered, it’s probably no surprise that Kevin Na was last year’s winner – someone who is known for his excellent short game rather than distance off the tee – and Jordan Spieth has also performed well here over the years.
As you may imagine, 3 months without competitive golf has meant that the players are desperate to get back to playing again, with two majors already having been postponed at the beginning of the summer.
This has resulted in one of the strongest fields you are likely to see for a regular PGA Tour event, with the Top 5 players in the world (and 15 of the top 20) checking in to Fort Worth to get their season back underway.
The TV Featured Groups this week are pretty impressive too:
Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm
Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth
Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose
Phil Mickelson, Kevin Na, Gary Woodland
In order to ensure safety at the event, the PGA Tour has implemented a policy where players are to stay at the same host hotel and use the same chartered flights, with limited on-site access available. The players were also encouraged to take a test at home before travelling to Fort Worth, with players and caddies being tested again when they arrive at the venue. They will then be subjected to daily temperature screening during the week.
All four days of action will be available to view on Sky Sports Golf, and host broadcaster CBS is planning to introduce a number of new features to the production, perhaps due to the recent success of charity matches.
CBS are aiming to have as many players ‘mic’ed up’ as possible in order to capture real-time reaction to shots, particularly as there will be no crowds and a limited TV crew on the course providing commentary and analysis.
There is also a ‘confession booth’ next to one of the tees where players can speak directly to a TV camera, which will then be transmitted on air, to get some mid-round reaction.
Will you be watching this week? Do you think that professional golf is safe to return? Let us know your thoughts below!
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