The PGA Tour has announced its plans to resume the 2019-’20 season on June 11-14 at the Charles Schwab Challenge – without fans in attendance – while also unveiling a re-configured tournament schedule for the remainder of 2020 in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have a level of confidence that is based upon what we see [with] changes and developments being made in the world of testing [and] available tests,” Andy Pazder, executive vice-president and chief of operations for the tour, said on a conference call. “So we’re optimistic, but I’m not going to say on this call that I have 110 percent certainty. But we are very confident that we will be able to play that second week in June.”
The remainder of the summer schedule plays out as first reported by Golf Digest on Tuesday, with the Tour next travelling to Hilton Head, South Carolina for the RBC Heritage (June 18-21), which was originally scheduled for this week. The Heritage, initially cancelled by the Tour, fills the spot vacated by the US Open, which has been postponed until September. After the Heritage is the Travelers Championship (June 25-28), which remains in its original spot on the schedule, then the Rocket Mortgage Classic (July 2-5) at Detroit Golf Club.
These four events will be played without fans, and the Tour said it will continue to monitor the situation and follow the recommendations of health and government officials.
“The health and safety of all associated with the PGA Tour and our global community continues to be our No.1 priority, and our hope is to play a role – responsibly – in the world’s return to enjoying the things we love,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is another positive step for our fans and players as we look toward the future, but as we’ve stressed on several occasions, we will resume competition only when – working closely with our tournaments, partners and communities – it is considered safe to do so under the guidance of the leading public health authorities.”
After the Rocket Mortgage comes the John Deere Classic (July 9-12) in Illinois and the Memorial at Muirfield Village in Columbus, Ohio (July 16-19), which moves from its originally scheduled June date to fill the void created by the Open Championship having been cancelled.
The three invitationals on the new schedule – the Charles Schwab Challenge (120 players), RBC Heritage (132 players) and the Memorial (120 players) – will also see increased field sizes to 144 players to provide additional playing opportunities.
Provided no delays or additional changes need to be made to the schedule, the 2019-’20 season would ultimately be made up of 36 events, including the FedEx Cup Playoffs, down from 49 on the original schedule.
The Tour said it is still discussing the possibility of testing players and others at tournaments.
“We’re in an evaluation mode learning about the testing, building out what we think could work from a testing protocol,” said Tyler Denis, senior vice=president of competitions for the tour. “We’ll certainly have more information on that over the next couple weeks and months.”
The Tour also is working through the complications of international travel for many of its players since various travel restrictions are currently in place. According to Pazder, there are at least 25 players currently located outside the US as well as 35 caddies.
How might a player’s eligibility be affected if he can’t travel to the US because of a travel ban, or if more tournaments get cancelled? The Tour said it is examining that and it’s possible eligibility would then be extended to the fall of 2021.
What if a player simply feels uncomfortable about coming back in two months?
“My only experience with anything like this I guess would be the first few tournaments following 9/11,” Pazder said. “We had players that were uneasy about air travel. That’s one of the beauties of being a PGA Tour member; you’re an independent contractor. You’re not required to be at any PGA Tour event. So they have that discretion to play tournaments where they favour the golf course or tournaments; in this instance, they may or may not feel comfortable. But that’s an individual player decision.”
The Tour also unveiled the fall portion of its 2020-’21 schedule. That season would begin with the Safeway Open (September 10-13) in California, followed by the US Open (September 17-20) and the Ryder Cup (September 25-27). Missing from the fall slate is the The Greenbrier, which will no longer be part of the PGA Tour schedule, “per a mutual agreement” between the parties. The rest of the calendar unfolding as follows:
• Sept. 24-27: Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, Corales Golf Club, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
• Oct. 1-4: Sanderson Farms Championship, Country Club of Jackson, Jackson, Miss.
• Oct. 8-11: Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, TPC Summerlin, Las Vegas
• Oct. 15-18: The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges, Nine Bridges, Jeju Island, South Korea
• Oct. 22-25: Zozo Championship, Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, Chiba Prefecture, Japan
• Oct. 29-Nov. 1: WGC-HSBC Champions, Sheshan International Golf Club, Shanghai, China
• Oct. 29-Nov. 1: Bermuda Championship, Port Royal Golf Course, Southampton, Bermuda
• Nov. 5-8: Houston Open, Memorial Park Golf Course, Houston
• Nov. 12-15: Masters Tournament, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta
• Nov. 19-22: The RSM Classic, Sea Island Resort (Seaside and Plantation), Sea Island, Ga.
• Nov. 26-29: Open week (Thanksgiving)
• Dec. 3-6: Mayakoba Golf Classic, El Camaleón Golf Club, Playa del Carmen, Mexico