PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan did not specify a timeline as to when the Tour expects to welcome fans back to the course, something that hasn’t been done since The Players Championship in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kevin Kisner, a member of the Tour’s policy board, said Thursday ahead of the Tour Championship in Atlanta that he expects that to happen at the beginning of the year.
“I think we will transition to spectators as soon as we feel like we have a good plan that the players are comfortable with,” Kisner said, via ESPN. “We need the fans back. Without the fans, the tournaments aren't the same, the revenues aren't the same. We need them back. All of us want to play in front of fans. We appreciate having people applauding our golf shots other than the one or two volunteers on a hole.
“I think the start of the new year, we'll probably transition into trying something. Obviously it takes time. And what we've done with this pro-am thing, is we started on the Champions Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour to test it, and maybe we'll test some fans out there to see how the protocols work. I think we'll start with a very limited number and transition from there.”
‘I think we can move in that direction soon’
The Tour returned to play in June with the Charles Schwab Challenge, and will conclude the modified season with the Tour Championship at East Lake this weekend. All 14 events since play resumed have been held without fans.
The 2020-21 season will kick off immediately after the Tour Championship, starting with the Safeway Open next week before the rescheduled U.S. Open at Winged Foot on Sept. 17. There are 14 more events scheduled through the end of the year, including both the U.S. Open and the Masters Tournament.
There are more than 6.1 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Thursday afternoon, according to The New York Times, and more than 186,000 deaths attributed to it. The country has reported more than 40,000 cases a day over the past week, too, the second-most among any country in the world.
Several golfers and caddies have tested positive since play resumed, too, though nobody has contracted the virus now for five weeks.
While there is still a lot that needs to be figured out in order to welcome fans back, Kisner thinks that it is very possible for golf to do so sooner than other sports — especially given how and where the game is played.
“I would not think that we would be at a point that we'd have to test every spectator,” Kisner said, via ESPN. “But I think we could change the way the rope lines work to limit contact, and have way more volunteers that maybe we tested to help us limit the contact.
“If you listen to the CDC guidelines, if they're not within 6 feet, you shouldn't have an issue, right? So as long as we stay away from each other, we wear our masks when we're inside, we have the safest environment in the world to play our sport — and we can come up with a way to keep people away from us and people to be entertained, I think we can move in that direction soon.”
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