The PGA Tour powers on despite a number of players and caddies testing positive for the coronavirus. But should play be halted again like it was back in March? Two of our writers disagree
For a few days in the run up to the Travelers Championship – the third event of the PGA Tour’s much-anticipated return – it felt like you couldn’t go a couple of hours without another coronavirus-related withdrawal.
Nick Watney was first, having pulled out midway through the previous week’s RBC Heritage, and Cameron Champ followed with a positive test. Then Brooks Koepka and Graeme McDowell withdrew because their respective caddies, Ricky Elliott and Ken Comboy, had it, which led to Koepka’s brother Chase – a Monday qualifier for River Highlands – giving up his spot, as did Webb Simpson due to a family member suffering from Covid-19.
And there’s little doubt there will be more. So should the PGA Tour be suspended indefinitely as it was after just one round of the Players Championship in March? Alex Perry and Dan Murphy disagree…
‘Pull the plug on the PGA Tour’
This has been a PR disaster for the PGA Tour, writes Alex Perry. Commissioner Jay Monahan flew in on Wednesday and he refused to say how many positive Covid cases would equal pulling the plug.
Incidentally, the PGA Tour’s unofficial spokesman Rory McIlroy was asked back at the Players Championship – which, you’ll remember, lasted just one round before the Tour was suspended – what should happen if one player or caddie tests positive.
“We need to shut it down then,” he replied.
New York Post journalist Mark Cannizzaro, who was in attendance at the first event back at Colonial, told the McKellar podcast his “personal experience was very unsettling”.
“The bubble has good intentions but it is largely for show,” he added. “Players are staying in rental houses. I was out to dinner with caddies during the week. In Texas it is a free for all.”
It’s been a farce from start to finish, and it’s all in a country where infection rates continue to climb. And with states now imposing individual quarantine rules, it makes the PGA Tour’s problem even worse.
Just a reminder – the PGA Tour expects to have fans on site the week after next. And if that doesn’t pop the bubble…
I’m not alone in this thinking. Golf.com’s Alan Shipnuck took pelters from fans, officials, caddies and players alike after writing a piece saying the PGA Tour should be suspended.
And there was one sentence that stood out for me: “The return of professional sports should be a reward for societies that have eliminated the coronavirus.”
Bingo. Pull the plug, Jay.
‘At some point we have to just get on with it’
The PGA Tour should plough on, writes Dan Murphy. The most compelling reason to do so? We don’t know when, or if, life will ever return to pre-Covid normality. So at some point, you have to play, even if it involves some compromises.
This isn’t a black-and-white issue. There’s no way that the PGA Tour can guarantee a Covid-free environment. It sounds simple enough – after all, golf is one of relatively few non-contact sports, it’s outdoors and it takes place over an enormous playing area. It’s pretty rare you get close enough to your playing partners or opponents to be able to smell their cologne.
But the sheer scale of a golf event – both in terms of the size of the site and also the length of time it takes, with a tour stop lasting for a week rather than a couple of hours – creates significant complexities.
The PGA Tour can, and I’m sure is, learning from one week to the next however.
If all the attendees at a given event – and the key word here is all, not just the players – won’t take the virus seriously then the Tour will have to give them a choice of changing their behaviour or not being allowed on the property.
Which of our writers do you agree with? Let us know in the comments below or you can tweet us.
- Related: Should the PGA Championship be cancelled?
- Related: Should the Ryder Cup be postponed to 2021?
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