The PGA Tour on Thursday announced it would resume its season in mid-June with a tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, which would most likely make men’s golf among the first major American professional sports to restart competition since the coronavirus pandemic halted most events in March.
The tour said the event, the Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial Country Club, would be held June 11-14 and played without spectators, as would the next three tournaments scheduled for June and early July.
Tour leaders, however, conceded that myriad details had yet to be resolved, including testing of players for the coronavirus before they leave for tournaments, assessing the effects of global travel bans on participation and determining whether local health officials would approve the tournaments set for their areas.
“I’m confident that we’ll be able to resume play; that’s different than being certain,” Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour’s chief tournament and competitions officer, said in a conference call with reporters Thursday.
Fort Worth’s mayor, Betsy Price, was enthusiastic about the rescheduling of the event, a fixture on the tour that was originally set for May 21-24.
“I feel like we can make this work,” Price said. “It is a very fluid situation so you can’t say 100%, but I’m optimistic.”
On Tuesday, Jay Monahan, the tour’s commissioner, was one of 14 sports executives — including the commissioners of the NFL, the NBA, Major League Baseball and the LPGA — named by President Donald Trump to a new council that will advise him on reopening the country’s economy.
Pazder acknowledged that there was a growing thirst for live sporting events to be televised in the United States, if not worldwide, but said the tour was not “rushing back to satiate that desire.” He added, “We’re only going to do that when we are sure that it will be safe and responsible to do that.”
The tour, which suspended play March 13, expects to follow an ambitious, almost weekly schedule of events through the rest of the year. Early this month, the LPGA Tour said it hoped to resume its tournament schedule on June 19.
In the reconfigured PGA Tour schedule announced Thursday, the Fort Worth tournament would be followed by the RBC Heritage, beginning June 18 at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. A tournament outside Hartford, Connecticut, the Travelers Championship, would be up next, June 25-28.
Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut endorsed having the PGA Tour event in his state.
“I don’t think that’s too soon,” Lamont said of the Travelers Championship. He added that the tournament promised to be something that “showcases the best of Connecticut in a safe way.”
John J. McCann, the mayor of Hilton Head Island, called the PGA Tour’s return “incredible news.”
“It’s a huge win for golf and our community,” McCann wrote in an email.
From July to December, PGA Tour events would take place in 15 states and seven countries. Tour officials made no predictions about when spectator tickets would again be sold for tournaments. But the first four scheduled events, if held as planned, would be attended by hundreds of players, caddies, rules officials, event workers, a large broadcast crew and other members of the news media.
Brooks Koepka, the world’s third-ranked golfer, was skeptical about the timing for professional golf’s return.
“I hope we start in June, I just think it’s a little unrealistic,” Koepka said Wednesday in a question-and-answer session conducted on Instagram by his swing coach, Claude Harmon III. “You think about all these guys that are going to be in airports flying everywhere. There are so many guys. Everything has to be cleaned. Is it really possible?”
Pazder said the tour was optimistic about restarting play in June in part because of the likelihood that more testing for the coronavirus would become available in the next eight weeks.
“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,” he said.
As for continued restrictions on travel, Pazder said that at least 25 players and 35 caddies live outside the United States and that the tour was monitoring if and when those prohibitions might be lifted.
Price said that if existing 14-day quarantines of visitors arriving in Texas from some countries remained in effect in two months, some players might have to arrive well before the tournament’s start. She also wondered how many hotels would be needed to lodge players, so that the city could prepare to “get those reopened and get appropriate guidelines in place.”
Golf’s first major championship, the PGA Championship, is scheduled to begin on Aug. 6 in San Francisco, although the PGA of America, a separate golf entity which oversees the PGA Championship, has acknowledged that it may have to move its event out of California, or host the tournament without spectators.
The U.S. Open, once scheduled for mid-June in Westchester County, New York, was postponed last week until Sept. 17-20. At the same time, the British Open was postponed until 2021 and the Masters tournament was rescheduled for Nov. 12-15 in Augusta, Georgia.
On the subject of sporting events without spectators, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading public health expert on the president’s coronavirus task force, said in an interview that there was a way that athletic contests in pro baseball and football, and college sports could return this summer or fall.
“Nobody comes to the stadium,” Fauci said, adding that players would have to be housed in “big hotels.”
“Wherever you want to play,” he said, “keep them very well surveilled, but have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.”