It really looks like golf is aiming to be the sport that leads the way in the eventual comeback from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic shutdowns. Following Monday’s series of announcements from the game’s governing bodies regarding the schedule going forward, it’s pretty clear that golf wants to be the first sport back on TV when the time comes.
For those who haven’t heard, there were a series of announcements Monday that laid out the remainder of the PGA Tour season. The first announcement was that the British Open — originally scheduled for July 16-19 — has been canceled for only the fourth time in its history, which dates back to 1860. While obviously upsetting that one of the year’s four majors won’t be happening, it does open up the schedule for the PGA Tour to freelance a bit.
As of now, the Tour is aiming for a mid-June return and will hold weekly events through July. In August is where things start to get interesting, as the PGA Championship will be held August 6-9 before the FedEx Cup Playoffs open two weeks later. Following the close of the Tour Championship on Sept. 7, players will fly straight to Mamaroneck, N.Y. for the US Open at Winged Foot from Sept. 17-20. Immediately after that will be the bi-annual Ryder Cup from Sept. 25-27, then there will be an extended lull before The Masters is held from Nov. 12-15. Talk about a back-loaded schedule.
On the one hand, this makes sense. The priority for all parties involved will always be the four majors, so it makes sense that three of the four will be squeezed in at the expense of other Tour events. Considering the Tour gets to add in an extra week with the cancellation of the British Open, there will be enough room to host seven events before the PGA Championship. That means fewer sponsors get the short end of the stick, which is good business for the PGA Tour.
On the other hand, this has “logistical nightmare” written all over it. Basically, if the schedule gets pushed back even a week or two then this thing is all over. The Tour could get caught making a bunch of promises to sponsors that it can’t keep, which won’t be good for future deals. And all of this goes without mentioning that the Tour — which has been expanding its schedule every year — normally starts its new season in early October. How will all of these pushbacks affect the 2020-2021 season? How will lower-ranked Tour players — who make much of their living playing in lesser-known events that the top players usually ignore — be affected when top players take those spots because they haven’t played? There are more questions than answers in this department.
All in all, it’s highly likely that golf will be the first sport back once the go-ahead is given. It’s a game that’s played outdoors over hundreds of acres, and the Tour has already said that there will be no fans for a while at the beginning of the restart. But being the first back comes with a number of risks, and the Tour might be setting itself up for a rough couple of months ahead.