FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — With one swing met with silence, the PGA Tour got back to business Thursday at Colonial.
Ryan Palmer was selected to hit the opening tee shot at the Charles Schwab Challenge as a Colonial member who raised money for COVID-19 pandemic relief through his “Pros For A Purpose” campaign.
So quiet was the golf course without any spectators allowed that the starter introducing Palmer on the first tee could barely be heard from 40 feet away because of the hum of a nearby generator.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan watched from the starter’s booth — a rarity for him to be on the first tee of any opening round — and gave Palmer, Brian Harman and Bill Haas a thumbs-up as they walked off the tee.
Players were back to wearing pants. Caddies wore bibs with two names — the player and a health care worker. Every shot counted. That was the only semblance of normalcy.
The starter on the 10th tee, wearing a mask, introduced a player and there was no noise until his club made contact.
The last PGA Tour event was March 12 at The Players Championship for the opening round. Fans were allowed that day, though it was a small crowd given the day of the week. The tour first announced there’d be no fans the rest of the week, and by the end of the day canceled the tournament and eventually 10 more.
There were 90 days between official shots.
Players, caddies and essential personnel were tested for the coronavirus upon arrival — 487 tests, all negative — and everyone has their temperature checked before getting into the parking lot each day, along with filling out a health questionnaire.
Players had the option of a designated hotel — some chose private housing, while Russell Knox drove his tour bus from Florida — and were encouraged to avoid contact outside the course. That was not monitored, as the players are independent contractors.
Players also were told they should handle their own clubs, and caddies should wipe down flagsticks after handling them. That, too, was largely ignored in practice rounds. Rory McIlroy asked TV viewers for patience because “it’s easy to fall back into old habits.”
Monahan, asked Thursday morning what would constitute a successful tournament, said, “Getting to next week.”
He said in a news conference Wednesday that the tour has passed big hurdles to get back to play.
“But now we get inside the field of play,” he said. “Now you think about all the things that we’re asking our players and caddies and everybody that’s here in this small bubble to do, we need to execute on that.”