No fans just friends at successful first Major of 2020
So the 2020 US PGA Championship went ahead despite the Coronavirus pandemic. It was played even though special safety measures had to be introduced to keep players, caddies, tournament officials and others safe and healthy. And despite the fact that America continues to see an alarming increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, players arrived from all over the world to participate in the 102nd Championship. Although the PGA of America made the unprecedented step of not allowing fans to be present at TPC Harding Park, San Francisco, I was still stunned. It all seemed too risky to me.
When the pandemic first gripped the world and all sporting events were cancelled, including the Masters at Augusta National, there was hope that later in the year some golf tournaments might still be possible. But when the R&A took the mammoth decision to cancel The 2020 Open which was due to be held at Royal St George’s, Sandwich in July until 2021, I assumed that the organisers of our other beloved golf Majors would follow suit.
Amidst all the sporting and other chaos in the world, I felt it was the responsible thing to do – to draw a line under all the Majors. Put an end to the worry of whether to play or not, whether to postpone or not, and just cancel all the Majors of 2020. A symbolic entry in the history books: “2020: No tournament due to Corona pandemic”. A lasting mark of respect for all those who have died from COVID-19, including the doctors, nurses and care staff who have battled on our behalves and fallen on the ‘front-line’. Some are likening this pandemic and its repercussions to World War Three. It certainly puts life into perspective and makes you realise that golf is not so important in the grand scale of things – unless it is your livelihood, of course.
“Get in the hole!”
A Major is not a Major without thousands of respectful golf fans cheering the players on. Gasping at every missed-by-a-whisker putt. Silence is golden on the golf course, but during the big golf tournaments, the sound of applause rippling across the course and the enthusiastic roars for the birdies and eagles, just builds on the drama. The biggest golf tournaments on earth without spectators? Sounds rather dull. And hard to imagine. Well, it actually happened in the US PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park, San Francisco from 6-8 August 2020. Thankfully the best players on the planet were not hindered by the lack of supportive fans and produced some electrifying golf. And amazingly, without the on-course fans, you almost began to miss the irritating shouts of “Get in the hole!”
Simply give all the defending champions the chance to defend their titles next year was my personal view. It’s all too risky now. As it happens, the 2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry from Ireland will reign for another year. But what the future would hold for the other three Major Champions was anyone’s guess. Americans Brooks Koepka (US PGA ), Tiger Woods (Masters) and Gary Woodland (US Open) had to play the waiting game.
Since the PGA Tour’s return to golf on June 11th, six players had to withdraw from events within the first two weeks. Even Koepka, the World Number 4 at the time, had to pull out of the Travelers Championship just a few weeks before going for his hat-trick in the US PGA. His caddie had tested positive for Corona. Hardly a good build-up for the defence of his title. And so, week in, week out, more and more players, caddies or their families are being tested positive for COVID-19 and so have to withdraw from tournaments as a precaution. At one point, Europeans had to seriously consider whether to cross the pond where they would have to face two weeks in quarantine before being allowed to tee-off. Now that must be seriously unsettling for your game!
Young rising star inspires the world
After all the rescheduling, the 102nd US PGA Championship was staged as the first Major of the year for the first time since 1971. And what a wonderful tournament it was too, I must admit. Gripping from day one with all the drama and excitement you expect from a Major, even in these turbulent times. On Sunday, it was a relative unknown, 23-year old Collin Morikawa who emerged from out of the mist in California to steal our hearts with his brilliant golf and gracious smile. The young player from Los Angeles is just the inspiration we all need right now.
REVISED MAJOR DATES: The Masters at Augusta National has been rescheduled to 9-15 November 2020 and “is to be conducted without Patrons or Guests”. The USGA has rescheduled the US Open at Winged Foot GC, Mamaroneck until 17-20 September 2020 with the announcement that the tournament “will be conducted without on-site fans”.
MAIN PHOTOGRAPH: American professional basketball player, Stephen Curry was among the special friends invited to attend the US PGA Championship at Harding Park GC, San Francisco. MINIS (below): Collin Morikawa, 2020 US PGA Champion.