The PGA Tour hopes to play 14 more events in 2019-20, starting with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 11-14 and ending with the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta, Sept. 4-7, followed by the start of the 2020-21 season and the U.S. Open, the Ryder Cup and the Masters.
PGA Tour chief tournaments and competitions officer Andy Pazder and senior vice president and chief of operations Tyler Dennis discussed the tour's plans for the rest of 2020 during a teleconference with media Thursday.
Here's everything you need to know about the tour's plans going forward:
How confident is the PGA Tour that the schedule will begin June 11-14 at Colonial Country Club?
Pazder wouldn't say with 100% certainty that the tour will resume less than two months from now, but he said tour officials are "very confident that we will be able to play that second week in June."
"Our first and foremost concern throughout the resumption of the PGA Tour schedule will be the safety and well-being of everyone connected to not just the PGA Tour but those communities where we play," Pazder said. "We will play only when we are certain that it is safe and responsible to do that. We are, needless to say, monitoring very closely developments at the local level, city, state and federal level, and given that we're a global organization with members all over the world, we'll also pay very close attention to what's happening outside the borders of the United States."
When will spectators be allowed back at PGA Tour events?
It's too early to say. What we do know is that the tour plans to play the first four scheduled events -- the Charles Schwab Challenge; the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, South Carolina, June 18-21; the Travelers Championship at Cromwell, Connecticut, June 25-28; and the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, July 2-5 -- without spectators.
Only essential personnel will be permitted to attend those events, and then the tour will reassess whether to permit fans at future events.
Pazder defined "essential personnel" as people who are essential to the conducting of tournaments, including players, caddies, tournament officials, rules officials, walking scorers, broadcast partner personnel and a certain number of people from the host organizations.
"Our barometer is simply the health and safety of everyone involved, whether that be players, caddies, the media, broadcasters, cast, etc.," Dennis said. "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."
Will there be on-site coronavirus testing for players, caddies and other essential personnel at tour events?
Dennis said that the tour is still evaluating what type of coronavirus testing might be implemented at tournaments and that it would be used only once testing is widely available in the U.S.
"I want to be perfectly clear that, first and foremost, the situation at the moment with testing is that it's most critical across the health care world and in our communities, and so at this juncture, we are merely evaluating it in the sports world and certainly at the PGA Tour," Dennis said.
"Our understanding is that, as it becomes more widely available, it would be appropriate to be able to use that to help us return. We think that that's critical for a lot of different reasons, but certainly for the communities we play in and the 3,000-plus charities that we support. So we're in an evaluation mode learning about the testing, building out what we think could work from a testing protocol, and we'll certainly have more information on that over the next couple weeks and months."
As an example, Dennis said tour players might be tested before they leave home and then again once they reach the host venue.
"It probably starts with some kind of testing before you leave home in an effort to be as safe as possible, and then proper hygiene and travel protocols as you travel towards the venue, possibly then testing that would go on in a safe and as clean an environment as we can make, both in terms of what you're doing in your daily routine at the golf course but also at the host hotel and dinners and all that," Dennis said.
Pazder said the tour has seen enough improvements in testing over the past two months to hope it can have a testing protocol in place when it returns in June.
"We see changes and developments being made in the world of testing, available tests," Pazder said. "We're following very closely, through the assistance of our expert medical advisers, the development of more large-scale testing capabilities, more rapid-response type tests, whether it's through finger pricks, testing for antibodies.
"We obviously are aware that the FDA recently approved use of a saliva-based test. It gives us confidence that we will be able to develop a strong testing protocol that will mitigate risk as much as we possibly can. We know that there will also be further developments over the next eight weeks before we were to resume play."
What about international players and caddies who are currently overseas?
Pazder said the tour is aware of 25 players who are somewhere outside the U.S., in addition to at least 35 caddies. Until international travel restrictions affecting some of those countries are lifted, the players probably wouldn't be permitted to return to the U.S.
The tour is monitoring travel restrictions, and if some international players aren't able to return to the U.S. to participate in tour events this season, the tour would evaluate whether to make concessions regarding their eligibility next season.
Will the tour take any precautions regarding the interaction between players and caddies?
The tour is evaluating how to incorporate social distancing into the daily routines of players and caddies, from walking to the driving range to the first tee, scorecards, raking bunkers, pulling pins and reading greens.
"We know that golf can be played in a safe way that abides by social distancing guidelines, and we're seeing that in many spaces across the country, by the way, at the amateur level," Dennis said. "But we can apply some of those same principles to golf on the PGA Tour."
Dennis said that the daily life of a PGA Tour golfer and caddie "won't be tremendously different" but that the tour is studying "how we can make sure all that is done in a socially distanced way and make sure that things stay safe and clean and sanitized."
Look for more distancing on the driving range, putting greens and other practice areas moving forward, as well as in clubhouses, locker rooms, broadcast areas and media centers.
What about tour players who might not be comfortable traveling or competing in tournaments because of the coronavirus?
PGA Tour players are essentially independent contractors who have the luxury of creating their own schedule. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, some players were uneasy traveling to events and skipped tournaments.
"You're not required to be at any PGA Tour event," Pazder said. "So they have that discretion to play tournaments where they favor the golf course or tournaments; in this instance, they may or may not feel comfortable. But that's an individual player decision."
With a shortened season, will there still be FedEx Cup playoffs, and will the points structure be altered?
If the abbreviated tour schedule goes off as planned, there will be a 36-tournament season. Dating to last September, there were 22 events played before the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. There are 14 more tournaments scheduled, including three FedEx Cup playoff events.
If each of the scheduled events gets played, it would be nearly three-fourths of the original 49-tournament schedule. Pazder said tour officials and the player advisory council agree it's enough to constitute a "credible" FedEx Cup season, ending with the Tour Championship at East Lake.
Pazder said there would not be any adjustments in the number of FedEx Cup points available between the first scheduled event at Colonial Country Club and the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs. He said the tour is still evaluating whether to reduce the points available at the first two FedEx Cup playoffs events -- the Northern Trust at TPC Boston from Aug. 20 to 23 and BMW Championship at Olympia Fields from Aug. 27 to 30.
Currently, playoff event points are worth four times as much as regular-season points, excluding major championships. Pazder said because roughly 30% of available regular-season points will be lost in canceled events, the first two playoff events might be worth only three times as much.
Because of the altered schedule, there will be only one major played during the 2019-20 season and as many as six in 2020-21. Does the tour plan to change FedEx Cup scoring for next season?
With the R&A canceling the 2020 Open Championship, the U.S. Open being pushed back to Sept. 17-20 (two weeks after the season-ending Tour Championship) and the Masters moving to Nov. 12-15, the PGA Championship at Harding Park on Aug. 6-9 would be the only major championship played during the 2019-20 season.
That means there potentially could be six majors played in 2020-21: two Masters tournaments, with the second one in its traditional spot in April 2021; a U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September and one at Torrey Pines in June 2021; the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, in May 2021; and the Open Championship at Royal St. George's in July 2021.
Currently, major championships are worth 600 FedEx Cup points -- only 100 more than non-major events in the regular season.
Despite the majors-packed schedule, Pazder said the tour didn't plan to make adjustments to FedEx Cup points system in 2020-21.
How will the shortened season affect players who don't finish in the top 125 and are in danger of losing their PGA Tour cards?
The tour has been working with its player advisory council to develop a hybrid model, which would give players who finish outside the top 125 in FedEx Cup points some access to tour events for the 2020-21 season.
Because more current PGA Tour players might be able to keep their cards for the 2020-21 season, Pazder conceded that fewer Korn Ferry Tour players, or perhaps none at all, would receive PGA Tour cards by finishing in the top 25 of the KFT money list.
"I would say if there is a scenario where we carry eligibility from the PGA Tour over to the following season, that will likely have a profound impact on the Korn Ferry Tour eligibility system and could go as far as preventing promotions from the Korn Ferry Tour, and their eligibility would then have to merge into their following season in 2021," Pazder said.
If the tour limits the number of essential personnel at tournaments, will the golf we see on TV look any different?
Before the coronavirus pandemic, featured groups, on-course reporters and multiple camera angles were integral parts of TV tournament coverage. Featured groups, in particular, require multiple camera operators and sound technicians. Will that sort of coverage be reduced because of social distancing?
Dennis said the PGA Tour was collaborating with its broadcast partners to figure out the safest way to televise events.
"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," Dennis said. "So it could be any and all things. We could 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. 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."
When might we see Tiger Woods for the first time?
Woods hadn't played since the Genesis Invitational in February after experiencing back stiffness, but he told endorser GolfTV that if the Masters had been played last week as scheduled, he would have been ready to try to defend his green jacket.
Woods, 44, has played just twice in 2020, finishing in a tie for ninth at the Farmers Insurance Open in January and then 68th -- last among those who made the cut -- at the Genesis.
With a condensed schedule that is back-ended with the biggest events, Woods will likely choose only a couple of events to play in June and July. If golf is really coming back at the Charles Schwab Challenge, it's hard to imagine Woods skipping the first major sporting event in the U.S. after the coronavirus pandemic.
Woods might play one or two more events to get himself ready for the July 16-19 Memorial Tournament, which he has won a record five times. If healthy, he never misses Jack Nicklaus' event.
We'll probably see more of Woods in August and September, when the PGA Championship, FedEx Cup playoff events, the U.S. Open and the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits are scheduled.
Then he'll be back at Augusta National Golf Club to defend his Masters title in November.