The PGA Tour laid out an ambitious plan Thursday to resume its 2019-20 season the second week of June and keep fans away for at least a month, conceding any return to golf depends on whether it can be played safely amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, was pushed back to June 11-14. Assuming professional golf gets the green light from government and health officials, the PGA Tour then would have an official tournament every week through Dec. 6 except for a Thanksgiving break.
Baylor School graduates Harris English, Luke List and Keith Mitchell are tour regulars, and English told the Times Free Press last month that he hoped golf would be among the first sports to resume once feasible.
"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. "But as we've stressed on several occasions, we will resume competition only when ... it is considered safe to do so under the guidance of the leading public health authorities."
Golf is the first sport to announce plans for a restart, although its venues are far different from other athletic competitions because it is played not only outdoors but over some 400 acres on a typical course. Thursday marked the second significant step to try to salvage the season, following last week's announcement of three major championships — including the Masters in November — going later in the year.
Even as it announced a truncated schedule, several key details were still being contemplated, such as testing for COVID-19 at tournaments.
"We have a level of confidence that is based upon ... changes and developments being made in the world of testing, available tests," said Andy Pazder, the tour's chief officer of tournaments and competition. "We're following very closely, through the assistance of our expert medical advisers, the development of more large-scale testing capabilities. ... It gives us confidence that we will be able to develop a strong testing protocol that will mitigate risk as much as we possibly can."
The RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, previously canceled this week, was brought back to be played June 18-21. Those dates previously belonged to the U.S. Open, which plans to move to September at Winged Foot Golf Club near New York City.
That would be followed by the Travelers Championship in Connecticut and the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.
The tour said its invitation-based tournaments — Colonial, Hilton Head and the Memorial — would have their fields expanded to 144 players. Memorial, with Jack Nicklaus as the host, takes the July 16-19 week that had belonged to the British Open before it was canceled. The World Golf Championship in Memphis now has the dates (July 30-Aug. 2) that would have been for the Tokyo Olympics, which were pushed to 2021.
If all goes according to plan, the season would end Sept. 7 with the Tour Championship at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club with a FedEx Cup champion getting the $15 million bonus. That would be a 36-tournament schedule, down from 48 originally.
Three more tournaments were canceled, one permanently. Officials for the Canadian Open, the third-oldest on the PGA Tour schedule, said it would not be played this year. Also canceled was the Barbasol Championship in Kentucky, typically held the same week as the British Open. The Greenbrier at Old White TPC event in West Virginia was canceled for good.
The tour had only 40 events in 2013, a short slate to prepare for the start of its wraparound season that now begins in the fall.
Even so, it could lead to a peculiar two seasons. The current season could have only one major championship; the PGA Championship is scheduled for Aug. 6-9 at Harding Park in San Francisco. The following season could have two Masters, two U.S. Opens, the PGA Championship and the British Open.
Other details the tour still has to sort out was who fell under the "essential" category that would be allowed at tournaments beyond players, caddies, scoring official, rules officials and support staff.
Pazder said at least 25 players are outside the United States, along with at least 35 caddies, all subject to international travel restrictions.
"We are playing very close attention to if and when those restrictions are changed," he said.
Tyler Dennis, the tour's chief of operations, said officials also were considering the movement of everyone who would be at a golf tournament. Social distancing in golf is not difficult; some people continue to play golf in states where courses remain open.
Still to be determined is how to keep other areas, even the flag stick, sanitized.
PGA Tour Schedule
The revised PGA Tour schedule for the 2020 calendar year based on cancellations and postponements brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic (x-unofficial event):
Remainder of 2019-20 season
June 11-14 — Charles Schwab Challenge; Colonial CC; Fort Worth, Texas
June 18-21 — RBC Heritage; Harbour Town Golf Links; Hilton Head Island, S.C.
June 25-28 — Travelers Championship; TPC River Highlands; Cromwell, Conn.
July 2-5 — Rocket Mortgage Classic; Detroit GC
July 9-12 — John Deere Classic; TPC Deere Run; Silvis, Ill.
July 16-19 — Memorial Tournament; Muirfield Village GC; Dublin, Ohio.
July 23-26 — 3M Open; TPC Twin Cities
July 30-Aug. 2 — WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational; TPC Southwind; Memphis
July 30-Aug. 2 — Barracuda Championship; Tahoe Mountain Club (Old Greenwood); Truckee, Calif.
Aug. 6-9 — PGA Championship; TPC Harding Park; Daly City, Calif.
Aug. 13-16 — Wyndham Championship; Sedgefield CC; Greensboro, N.C.
Aug. 20-23 — The Northern Trust; TPC Boston
Aug. 27-30 — BMW Championship; Olympia Fields CC; Olympia Fields, Ill.
Sept. 4-7 — Tour Championship; East Lake GC; Atlanta
Fall portion of 2020-21 season
Sept. 10-13 — Safeway Open; Silverado Resort and Spa (North); Napa, Calif.
Sept. 17-20 — U.S. Open; Winged Food CC (West); Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Sept. 24-27 — Ryder Cup; Whistling Straits GC; Sheboygan, Wis.
Sept. 24-27 — Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship; Corales GC; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Oct. 1-4 — Sanderson Farms Championship; CC of Jackson; Jackson, Miss.
Oct. 8-11 — Shriners Hospital for Children Open; TPC Summerlin; Las Vegas
Oct. 15-18 — The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges; Jeju Island, South Korea
Oct. 22-25 — ZoZo Championship; Accordia Golf Narahino CC; Chiba, Japan
Oct. 29-Nov. 1 — WGC-HSBC Champions; Sheshan International GC; Shanghai
Oct. 29-Nov. 1 — Bermuda Championship; Port Royal GC; Southampton, Bermuda
Nov. 5-8 — Houston Open; Memorial Park GC
Nov. 12-15 — Masters; Augusta (Ga.) National GC
Nov. 19-22 — RSM Classic; Sea Island GC; St. Simons Island, Ga.
Dec. 3-6 — Mayakoba Golf Classic; El Camaleon GC; Playa del Carmen, Mexico
x-Dec. 3-6 — Hero World Challenge; Albany GC; Nassau, Bahamas
x-Dec. 11-13 — QBE Shootout; Tiburon GC; Naples, Fla.