What will it look like?
A major sporting event without spectators is a foreign concept, but it is one of the many new undesirable standards that the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed on us.
Every major sporting league – including MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS – has recognized this as a possibility, if not a probability, once their respective seasons start over or start.
On Thursday, the PGA Tour became the first major sport organization to announce any spectators as a reality when it established its updated schedule, which begins with the Charles Schwab challenge at the Colonial Country Club the week of June 8, and said at least the first four tournaments on the revised schedule will take place in the absence of fans.
Colonial is followed by RBC Heritage at Harbor Town Golf Links the week of June 15, then the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Connecticut the week of June 22 and the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club from July 2 – all be conducted as fanless television events.
“It will certainly be embarrassing not to have fans there,” Jim Furyk told The Post on Thursday. “We all want to return to the golf course when it is safe and we can. We would prefer to do it with the fans if we could. “
Furyk, who recorded a PGA Tour 58 record in Travelers 2016, said he could play all four of these events without fans – including Travelers, which is the third on the revised schedule.
“In the end, all we are is entertainment,” Charles Howell III told The Post. “It will definitely be different without fans. There is definitely a certain level of energy that comes from having fans. However, we are in an unprecedented period here where everything looks different and will be different in the future.
“And, if that’s what needs to be done and takes us back to the golf course and everyone is getting closer to normal, well that’s what needs to be done.”
Howell, like Furyk, said he plans to play all four of these fanless tournaments.
“In a way, it will look a bit like a Tuesday morning workout,” said Howell. “You are there and you play on the same golf course, but there is no one there.”
The Travelers Championship attracts approximately 300,000 fans during tournament week, making it the largest sporting event in Connecticut.
“It’s going to be different without our fans,” said Nathan Grube, director of the Travelers Championship tournament. “But whatever that” difference “is, we’re going to embrace it.” “
Andy Bessette, Travelers’ executive vice president, said, “Is it going to be weird without fans? Yes, it will be very strange. It will feel empty, but we will continue. “
Furyk and Howell expressed their apprehension as to how the tournaments are going to be “safe”.
“I can’t wait to see what type of plan they have in place to try to protect us,” said Furyk. “There are many things that put us in danger. What worries me most is the outside world. We still have to travel, we still have to check in at a hotel, we still have food, we still have to interact with people. And with these things comes a risk. This is the part that worries me. “
That said, Furyk insisted that he has “a lot of respect for those responsible for the PGA Tour, and I know they are not going to put us out there just to do it on the golf course.” They will do so in a safe environment. “
A PGA Tour source told The Post that the tour hopes to be able to “do extensive testing” before these events. But this seems unrealistic given the current shortage of nationwide testing for symptomatic people. Will the Tour be able to test asymptomatic players in just two months?
“I am delighted to come back to play and play again, but there is always this apprehension about making sure we can do it safely and do it the right way,” said Howell. “As long as the Tour and everyone follows the directives of [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], government and local authorities, I think we are fine. But there still has to be a learning curve here to test and what is safe.
“Golf, even without fans, requires a lot of people. I still think there are a lot of moving parts to this. I hope golf can find a way back, but find a safe way back so that we can all benefit. “