In this week’s edition, Scottie Scheffler returns to the PGA Tour from quarantine, the circuit plans for the long-awaited return of fans and Bryson DeChambeau’s swing coach explains how to Bryson-proof a golf course.
Quarantine consequence. Lost in the uncertainty and fear of the coronavirus pandemic is the very real and indiscriminate impact COVID-19 is having on sports.
When Branden Grace tested positive for COVID-19 at the Barracuda Championship it cost him a shot at the title - he was tied for second place through two rounds when he was forced to withdraw - and a start at the PGA Championship.
There was similar competitive damage when Scottie Scheffler was forced to withdraw from last month’s U.S. Open after testing positive. At the time Scheffler was on a heater having finished in the top 5 in three of his last four starts, including at tie for fourth at the PGA Championship, and he was about to be named the Tour’s rookie of the year.
“It definitely stunk sitting at home all week watching the U.S. Open, especially the way I was playing leading into it,” Scheffler said this week at the Sanderson Farms Championship, where he’s making his return to competition. “I felt like I had a good chance of winning. It stunk, but it's the world we live in.”
Unlike the NFL and college football, the Tour has avoided multiple high-profile positive tests that could undermine the competitive integrity of events, but Scheffler’s plight is a timely reminder of how quickly that could change.
Tweet of the week:
Homa followed up with another tweet explaining that he didn’t actually pay for golf, but he did buy golf balls and walk. This is all noteworthy because we did a column a few years ago asking Tour pros when they last purchased golf balls and paid a green fee. Most couldn’t remember doing either and those who could had to harken back to their junior golf days.
Now, if Homa changed his shoes in the parking lot and had to scrounge around the first tee looking for broken tees, he hit the public links grand slam.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Fan-tastic. At last week’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, the Tour quietly held its first pro-am since play was halted in March by COVID-19 and officials announced this week the circuit is poised to take the crucial next step in its return to normal.
A limited number of fans will be allowed at the Bermuda Championship later this month according to the Royal Gazette, marking the first time since the first round of The Players Championship the Tour will crack open its bubble for “general” fans.
The PGA Tour Champions and the Korn Ferry Tour have held pro-ams since those circuits restarted and a limited number of spectators were allowed on-site last month at the over-50 event in South Dakota.
It’s a crucial move for the Tour, primarily for financial reasons. Estimates vary, but one tournament director said 80 percent of his event’s revenue was generated via ticket sales and pro-am participation. The Tour’s financial model may work without fans but for individual tournaments, a return to even a limited number of fans is a crucial first step.
Bryson proofing. It’s no coincidence that the European Institute of Golf Course Architects came out against distance this week with the primary takeaway, “95 percent of respondents agreed that action needs to be taken to reduce hitting distances.”
In the wake of Bryson DeChambeau’s dismantling of Winged Foot at last month’s U.S. Open, the EIGCA isn’t the only acronym digging in against distance. So in true Bryson fashion, we attempted to reverse-engineer the problem and asked the bomber’s long-time swing coach, Mike Schy, how he would Bryson-proof a golf course.
“I’ve thought through this and I think I have the answer,” Schy explained on this week’s Golf Central Podcast. “I believe the rough should be scaled so that the closer you get to the green the thicker the rough becomes. Let’s say 60 yards out the rough is 7 inches deep and as you go back [toward the tee] the rough is scaled [shorter].
“You could actually narrow the fairway just a little bit, scale the rough and that brings back all the old golf courses. The courses that are potentially becoming obsolete [to Tour players], like Pebble Beach.”
The USGA has tinkered with graduated rough for years but that was based on a horizontal concept, with thicker rough as you move away from the fairway. What Schy is suggesting is a vertical version of graduated rough that would, in theory, make long hitters like DeChambeau make choices off the tee.
In a world that seems to have a shortage of answers Schy’s idea is certainly interesting.
Masters mysteries. When the Masters was relocated to November because of the COVID-19 pandemic the questions came quickly: How would Augusta National play in the fall? Would it be cold? Do azaleas bloom in November?
Fortunate timing gave Sebastian Munoz, who will be playing his first Masters next month, a chance to answer some of these questions when he booked a two-day trip to Augusta National following last fall’s RSM Classic. Unfortunately, he didn’t take advantage of the opportunity.
“It was cold,” Munoz explained this week at the Sanderson Farms Championship, where he is the defending champion. “Like, I remember I booked for two days, so the first day it was gorgeous. I played, like, around noon or a little later. It was like 70, 65 [degrees]. It was just long that time, but they told me it was playing different in April. And then the next morning I had an 8 a.m. tee time and I looked at the weather and it showed like 45 or 50 [degrees], and I'm, like, ‘Ugh, I'm not going to play since it's not going to be this cold at that time of the year,’ so I didn't play.”
Munoz said he did get a chance to see how long the course will be playing in November, but as far as seeing how the layout might play if it’s really cold ... well, it was just too cold.