At least now we have hope – dates on a calendar, reasons for optimism, a little clarity as we meander through the fog of this global health crisis.
If golf (and our everyday lives) can return to some sense of normalcy this summer, the game’s ruling bodies have planned an ambitious schedule for the second half of the year.
The USGA, R&A, PGA of America, Augusta National and PGA Tour released a joint statement Monday to cancel a major, reschedule three others and outline a vision for the rest of 2020. This revamped schedule required unprecedented coordination and sacrifice, all of the various entities working together to salvage what’s left of a season unlike any other in the game’s long history. With the R&A announcing that it’s scrapping The Open Championship, it’s the first time there will be – at most – three major championships in a year since World War II.
Indeed, these are extraordinary times, and so now:
• The PGA Championship will be staged Aug. 6-9, at TPC Harding Park;
• The PGA Tour’s FedExCup playoffs will culminate with a Labor Day finish;
• The U.S. Open at Winged Foot is rescheduled for Sept. 17-20, followed by the Ryder Cup, which for now is proceeding as scheduled;
• And the Masters is slated for Nov. 12-15.
It's comforting to see a plan in place. If all goes according to schedule – and that’s a mighty big “if” right now – the finish to the year should be fun, fresh, frenetic. Questions surrounding the qualification process for the majors and Ryder Cup will be sorted out in due time. How Augusta National will play in November will be a fascinating study. Sitting here right now, on April 6, with the world on edge amid so much death and despair, we’d be fortunate to have those trivial topics to debate.
Announcing these date changes, remember, doesn’t necessarily mean the tournaments will take place on schedule. And against our current bleak backdrop, golf’s fall vision seems wildly optimistic and aspirational.
In the detailed release, the Tour offered no update on their restart plan, but for now they’re expecting to return roughly two months from now. To do so – with or without fans – would require a massive sea change in this country; the U.S. Surgeon General is warning Americans that this week will be akin to the attack on Pearl Harbor and a “9/11 moment.”
So let’s think about this practically, because it won’t be business as usual, not in 60 days, maybe not at all this year.
Even playing without fans requires a near-complete relaxation of the current CDC guidelines that call for limiting unnecessary travel and avoiding large gatherings and maintaining social distancing. Hosting a full-fledged Tour event would still require roughly 1,500 to 2,000 support personnel. It’d require players to travel from all over the world. It’d require them interacting in close quarters in hotels and locker rooms and dining areas. The potential game-changer would be universal testing, at every stage – at airports, hotels, tournament entrances – but the U.S. isn’t yet at that point, and doesn’t appear particularly close, either.
A PGA Championship in August? Here’s hoping, but California Gov. Gavin Newsom sounded pessimistic when he said he doesn’t anticipate the NFL season starting on time, with fans in the stands, in September.
A U.S. Open and Ryder Cup in September? Here’s hoping, but Winged Foot is located outside New York City, in one of the country’s original hotspots, and early estimates called for at least 50,000 spectators a day at Whistling Straits, where fans would certainly not be practicing social distancing, all crammed together watching matches in close proximity.
A Masters in November? Here’s hoping, because it’d be spectacular, but the world’s leading health experts are expecting a resurgence of the novel coronavirus later this fall.
It’s all subject to change, every last bit of it, but after weeks of rumors and speculation, this massive schedule unveil was desperately needed, too.
It was needed for logistical purposes.
For a unified front.
And for the reminder, even for just one day, that sometime soon, hopefully, sports won’t feel so insignificant.