The PGA Tour announced an ambitious revised schedule on Thursday that would start mid-June in Texas, run past Thanksgiving and see at least its first four events played without spectators.
The Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, is the first rescheduled tournament, June 11-14. There are 28 events over 25 weeks, including three major championships, two World Golf Championship events and the FedEx Cup playoffs.
All of it is contingent upon government and health officials signing off on the resumption of play in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We're very closely monitoring the situation at the federal, state and local levels, and ultimately are going to follow every single recommendation that they make,'' said Tyler Dennis, the PGA Tour's senior vice president and chief of operations. "Our barometer is simply the health and safety of everyone involved, whether that be players, caddies, the media, broadcasters, cast, etc.
"So that's our first priority, our No. 1 priority, and we're really in the process right now of doing a comprehensive review of all of the facets of what would go into that, and part of that includes an analysis of the number of people that would need to be in the venue.
"The venue is a very large area at a golf course and distributed, and so we're doing it by the day, by the hour, by the location, and really getting our arms around all the facets that need to go into what we would say is an event not open to the general public.''
Both Dennis and Andy Pazder, the tour's chief tournaments and competitions officer, said there are numerous issues to work through, including testing for the coronavirus, but that the tour has now given itself two months to make numerous assessments as to how to proceed.
One of them is monitoring international travel restrictions that are now in place and even some state-by-state restrictions. Pazder noted that there are 25 PGA Tour members who currently are outside of the United States, and another 35 caddies.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, who participated in a conference call with tour and tournament officials on Wednesday, expressed excitement about the plan to restart the tour in her city. She also acknowledged sharing concerns over the ongoing pandemic.
"It's the same as everyone's biggest concern," Price told ESPN's Michael Collins on Thursday, admitting her concern over whether the virus will be under control by June.
When asked about tournament-related infrastructure, such as hotels, Price expressed confidence the city would be able to accommodate those in need of rooms.
Price added she was hopeful there would be testing ready and available either at the hotels or at the golf course for everyone who'd be on-site, though a plan was not in place.
As it is presented now, the schedule would have 36 events, including the three FedEx Cup playoff events, with the Tour Championship concluding on Labor Day, Sept. 7. That is three-quarters of the original 49-tournament schedule.
The 2020-21 season then would begin the following week at the Safeway Championship, Sept. 10-13, followed by the U.S. Open and the Ryder Cup.
That means the current season would see just one major championship played (the PGA Championship in August), with six scheduled in the 2020-21 season (the U.S. Open and the Masters with new dates in 2020 as part of this total). As of now, Pazder said, there will be no adjustment of FedEx Cup points, although the idea of reducing them at the first two playoff events -- the Northern Trust and BMW Championship -- is being considered.
"If we're able to determine that we can conduct the Charles Schwab Challenge and subsequent events in compliance with all health regulations, local, state and federal, health regulations, and if we're comfortable that our protocol, testing protocol and on-site procedures give us a confidence level, [then] we're going to proceed with our tournaments,'' Pazder said. "We will not do anything -- we will not conduct our tournaments if the answers to those previous questions aren't yes, we are confident.''
As for picking the June date as the starting point, Pazder said: "With the major championships and the Olympics either being postponed or canceled, it provided three weeks of flexibility, so that's U.S. Open week, the Open Championship and the week of the Olympics, and we decided a few weeks ago that we should move toward [by] taking advantage of that opportunity to push the restart of our season from May 18-24 at the Charles Schwab Challenge and buy ourselves three additional weeks of time.
"There's a lot that can happen in a positive way in those three additional weeks with this delay, and that was what drove us. It wasn't that we were like, 'We've got to figure out how to start on June 8.' It wasn't necessarily a date that we'd locked in for any specific reason. It was more we have this opportunity to capitalize on the schedule flexibility and move things back just to give ourselves -- increase the odds in our favor collectively to be able to resume at Colonial.''
However, at least one tour professional believes the proposed return date might be a bit ambitious.
"I think it's a little early,'' said PGA Tour veteran Pat Perez, who lives in Arizona. "But I understand what they want to do. Everybody wants sports back. Of course they do. Everybody wants to get back. But it's such a bigger deal than sports, it's such a small percentage of what is going on in the world right now. People are sick, we don't know who all has it (the virus). It's serious.
"I know they want to get a schedule together and I appreciate that, but I think it's a bit premature. I'd be shocked if we are back June 8. What about airlines, hotels, all kinds of things? There's a lot of questions.''
Perez said he has no problem with testing everyone involved and expects it.
"I don't mind having testing each week,'' he said. "And if you get it, sit down for two weeks. I'm absolutely fine with that.''
If this plays out, it would mean 24 consecutive weeks of golf leading to Thanksgiving, and a final 2020 tournament at the Mayakoba Classic -- the same week as Tiger Woods' Hero World Challenge, an unofficial event. Some weeks will have two events.
"The health and safety of all associated with the PGA Tour and our global community continues to be our No. 1 priority, and our hope is to play a role -- responsibly -- in the world's return to enjoying the things we love," PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement. "Today's announcement is another positive step for our fans and players as we look toward the future, but as we've stressed on several occasions, we will resume competition only when -- working closely with our tournaments, partners and communities -- it is considered safe to do so under the guidance of the leading public health authorities."
The PGA Tour canceled the Players Championship in March after one round and immediately canceled three other events and postponed another before later adding four more to the list, including this week's RBC Heritage, which has now been moved to the week following the Charles Schwab tournament.
The Travelers Championship would be the third tournament, followed by the Rocket Mortgage Championship in the fourth week. The John Deere Classic, for now, would be the first tournament to allow spectators. That event is scheduled for July 9-12.
Last week, the R&A announced it was canceling this year's Open Championship at Royal St. George's and playing it at that venue next year. The other majors announced new dates: the PGA Championship at Harding Park, Aug. 6-9; the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, Sept. 17-20; and the Masters, Nov. 12-15.
It is possible that some events could be presented differently on television, depending on how many broadcast personnel are allowed to travel to a site and if there are any other further restrictions put in place.
"There's a lot of specific things to think about there in terms of how they produce a broadcast and what we can do to mitigate any health concerns and safety concerns that we have there,'' Dennis said. "So it could be any and all things. We could face a slightly or create a slightly different type of telecast. We could do it exactly like we normally do. We're looking at it as an opportunity with our broadcast partners to try to introduce some innovative ideas, and really, if we are as we've said going to be with no general public at our first four events, try to use that as an opportunity to showcase play on the PGA Tour in a slightly different way.''