All eyes will soon be on Fort Worth. From June 8 to 14, the Colonial Country Club will host the world’s first major sporting event since forever. Or at least since spring break.
And this is if –– and it’s a weighty “if” –– new coronavirus cases do not spike, a concern considering that Gov. Greg Abbott recently reopened restaurants and other formerly nonessential businesses with some restrictions.
Even if you hate golf –– the way the players never dirty their precious khakis, the way the courses soak up all of that delicious water that Third World countries could use, the way your beer gets all hot in your bag –– you will have to fight the urge to tune into the 2020 Charles Schwab Challenge, a mighty fine reintroduction to high-level sportsball. And for viewers all over the globe, it might be their introduction to the Fort.
A lot of questions need to be answered first. Before Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price can say Word 1, more data need to be acquired. That’s one thing. Another is time. Civic and business leaders need more time to know the extent of the pandemic locally. Though live spectators will not be permitted, pulling off a major production like a PGA tourney requires hundreds of people. Will they all be tested? Will they all be self-quarantining weeks beforehand? Will the players be traveling by private plane? Will they be wearing masks while swinging clubs? (That’s a strong “maybe.”)
After almost a week of daily case counts in the 100s, Tarrant County reported a decrease in new COVID-19 cases Monday. Seventy-two new cases and no deaths add up to 2,019 total cases, 289 recoveries, and 53 deaths. The data suggest a flattening of the curve and that social distancing is working. Still, Texas is next to dead last in the country in the amount of testing performed per capita. This is worrisome to not only us laypeople but also the good folks behind the golf tourney.
When the PGA Tour announced its revised schedule recently, the group emphasized the importance of abundant testing, some of which does not appear readily available –– especially for non-poor pro athletes who may not be ill.
“We’re spending a lot of time right now learning about testing,” Tyler Dennis, the PGA Tour’s chief of operations, told the Golf Channel. “I want to be perfectly clear that first and foremost, the situation at the moment with testing is that it’s most critical across the healthcare world and in our communities, and so at this juncture, we are merely evaluating it.”
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan told GOLF.com that “widespread, large-scale testing across our country” is vital, along with the “need to test players, caddies, and other constituents before we return.”
Organizers are also a little worried about the lack of revenue that comes with staging a major sporting event without fans. Michael Tothe, director of the Charles Schwab Challenge, sees an upside.
“Financially speaking in the broader spectrum, it’s better to have a tournament without fans,” he told the Golf Channel. “Charles Schwab gets the media exposure from TV. That’s a big piece of it. In the greater good, absolutely having it without fans is more important. For us to be first up, the first event back in sports, in golf, it’s very important.”
The PGA Tour is also considering changing gameplay to adhere to social-distancing guidelines. Players may be required to putt with the flag in the hole, play without bunker rakes, and *gasp* retrieve their own clubs from their bags!
Golf journalist Sean Zak said the biggest challenge facing the Colonial remains testing, “making sure 100% of the people involved are virus-free. Not 90% … . Not even 98% of people tested. 100%.”
The situation, Price told GOLF.com, is “obviously very fluid, and we’ll be keeping a close watch on it, but I’m very optimistic we can pull this off.”
We are, too. Go, golf!