8 Storylines to Know as the PGA Tour Returns
After more than 90 days, the PGA Tour is finally back.
The Tour returns on Thursday, June 11 at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Houston, Texas, before moving to South Carolina next week and then going from there.
It has been so long since we have seen professional golf on television, and prior to the break, the Tour had so much momentum and so many intriguing storylines.
Here are a few to get reacquainted with:
While the PGA Tour is back, the coronavirus is not going away, in fact most health experts expect there to be a second wave of the virus over the coming months.
As GolfNewsRI reported back in May, the Tour put out a comprehensive health and safety plan for players and tournament workers to try and prevent the coronavirus from impacting the tournaments as much as possible.
What will happen if a player tests positive for the virus during the tournament?
According to the plan, If a player tests positive during a tournament, they will be forced to withdraw and receive a last place check, including if a player had made the cut.
However, what impact will that have on other players that an infected player was with, caddies, tournament officials and other people that could also be infected.
The last point regarding coronavirus is more of a positive one. It will be interesting to see if and how the PGA Tour adjusts their safety rules and regulations depending on which state they are going to that week.
Obviously, every state is at a different point in its coronavirus recovery, and therefore, have different restrictions.
Could we see looser restrictions pending on the state? Will be something to keep in mind.
2. The Majors
With the revised schedule the majors have all been pushed back and the British Open has been canceled.
The PGA Championship will now be held in August at TPC Harding Park in California, the U.S. Open will be played at Winged Foot in New York and, obviously, The Masters will be played at Augusta National in November.
So what will the majors look like?
According to Golf.com, it could be a cold major season.
Average Temperatures in in San Francisco in August are in the high 50s and low 60s, while average temperatures in New York in September are in the 70s.
And as for the temperatures at Augusta in November, how about 40s in the morning.
So who does it favor?
Well, according to Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee, not Tiger Woods.
“I look at Tiger and I look at cold venues, potentially cold venues as being sort of problematic on an aging, injured or prone-to-injury back,” Chamblee said to reporters ahead of this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge.
It should be interesting to see how the season builds toward the majors this year.
3. Tiger Woods
When the PGA Tour resumes, Tiger Woods will need one more win to break Sam Snead’s record.
Woods is not playing in the Charles Schwab Tournament, but according to Barstool’s Riggs, his yacht left Florida on Tuesday morning and is headed to South Carolina.
South Carolina is the next stop on the PGA Tour.
The last time we saw Woods was during the Champions for Charity match when he and Peyton Manning beat Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady.
How much stock can we put into how good Woods looked is up for debate, but it did appear the his ailing back was healthy enough to play and play well.
Prior to the shutdown, Woods last played a competitive golf round t the Genesis Invitational in February, where he finished in last place after making the cut.
Due to “back stiffness,” Woods then skipped the WGC-Mexico, the Honda Classic, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players.
4. Patrick Reed
The trials and tribulations of Patrick Reed.
Back in December, Reed was accused of cheating at the Hero World Challenge when his club clearly touched the sand.
Following the incident, Reed denied that he did it and said that he did not realize that he had done it etc… it basically turned into a mess and that carried right over into the Presidents Cup and the early season.
At the Sentry Tournament of Champions Reed found himself in a playoff and then was heckled by fans in that playoff and you could argue it might have cost him. A fan screamed “CHEATER” as he was trying to make a critical putt, and he ended up missing the putt.
Reed then finished in a tie for sixth at Torrey Pines, and won the WGC-Mexico.
However, than at the Players, he had a fan removed after he was being heckled.
Controversy has followed Reed throughout his career, and while there will not be any fans at these events to instigate, he will certainly be someone to watch…closely.
5. Fans Return
Fans will be allowed to return to a PGA Tour event in mid-July at Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament in Ohio.
This comes after Ohio governor Mike DeWine approved the Memorial Tournament’s request to allow fans at the event.
However, as GolfNewsRI wrote, it will definitely look different.
According to a report from the Columbus Dispatch, the Memorial Tournament will have up to 8,000 fans on-site at any given time, equaling approximately 20 percent of the capacity.
The Dispatch reports that there will be no bleachers, and each hole will feature designated sitting or standing areas, where a pre-determined number of fans will be allowed to sit.
According to the report, fans will be required to wear masks, and temperature checks will take place at every entrance.
Assuming that the Memorial is able to pull this off successfully, and obviously depending on restrictions of individual states, it will be interesting to see if this opens the door for fans to be able to attend other events, namely the Majors and Ryder Cup later in the season.
6. Ryder Cup
This is a Ryder Cup year, and the matches are set to be payed at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
However, there is some debate on whether or not the Ryder Cup should even take place if fans are not going to be allowed to attend.
The fans and the atmosphere is what makes the Ryder Cup special, there is no question about it and most of the players, including Rory McIlroy, say they would rather not play if there is no fans.
There has not been any indication as of now on what decision will be made, if it is played, the event will definitely look different, but it won’t diminish the importance of a U.S. victory.
If the event is postponed, would the plan be to hold a Ryder Cup and a President’s Cup next season?
Both events would be in the U.S., so it wouldn’t be terribly difficult I would imagine, but could lead to an overcrowded schedule.
This will be something to watch as the season goes on.
September is still a long ways away and things seem to change on a weekly basis across the country when it comes to the virus.
7. Phil Mickelson
While Tiger Woods is not playing this week, Phil Mickelson is in the field.
The question is, can Mickelson get his game back?
In the early part of the season, he dropped out of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time in his career.
Mickelson fell as low as 86th, before climbing back up to 55th after back-to-back third place finishes in Saudi Arabia and then at Pebble Beach.
Mickelson is currently ranked 61st and is set to turn 50 in June.
Can Phil climb back up the rankings and contend?
His game looked good in the Champions for Charity match, lets see if it carries over.
8. World Rankings
The number one spot in the world rankings is in a tenuous position right from the start with world number one Rory McIlroy playing with world numbers two and three, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm in the first two rounds.
If Rahm wins the tournament, he will be the new number one player in the world.
Now how much stock you, we as golf fans, put into the official rankings is a different debate, but it is a story line right from the first tee shots on Thursday.