PGA Tour restart plan will require patience, time management from players
Players will be greeted with a new normal when the PGA Tour resumes play next month at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas.
It’s going to take some getting used to.
“What we used to do and how easy it used to be and how fluid it was, that’s not going to be that way anymore,” four-time PGA Tour winner Charley Hoffman said Wednesday during a conference call.
Hoffman is the Player Advisory Council chairman. Since the PGA Tour shut down March 12 after the first round of the Players Championship due to the COVID-19 pandemic – Hoffman shot 70 that day – he has spent hours on end working with Tour officials, other players, tournament directors and health experts developing a plan for the resumption of play June 11 at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth.
The 37-page plan details safety and health rules and guidelines for the return, including layered testing protocols and social distancing standards. Its objective is to create a safety bubble to limit as much risk as possible.
“They are plans. They are not set in stone. We’re not acting like we know all the answers to this pandemic,” Hoffman said. “It’s very comprehensive, it’s very detailed, but I wouldn’t say it’s the here all end all, by any means.
“But it’s a plan for us to be safe. For this plan to work, we’re all going to have to abide by the regulations of the CDC and social distancing regulations and we’re looking forward to competing and putting the sport back on TV.”
Hoffman is “100 percent” comfortable with the testing protocols and the plan.
“We wouldn’t have gone through with this if we hadn’t had the consent from the players,” he said “I can say that every single player we have talked to is comfortable how (the plan) was laid out. I’m not saying we’re bullet-proof, by any means. This is serious and this is real. But we’re lucky to be in a sport where we don’t have to be in close contact with your competitors.”
But the days of jumping into the courtesy vehicle and getting to the course in eight minutes and then start working out 12 minutes later are gone, Hoffman said. Players will have to develop new routines to deal with the new safety measures.
For instance, upon arrival to the course, players will undergo a thermal test and take part in a questionnaire. A hot breakfast won’t be at the ready as soon as players walk into player dining. The range and practice putting green will have social distancing rules that could lead to a waiting game.
“We’re going to have to figure it out,” Hoffman said. “Time management is going to be important. The first few weeks I’m sure there will be a lot of waiting around. It’s going to be new for everybody.
“We have to be patient. But once the gun goes off, once we get inside the ropes, our instincts will come back and the competition will be amazing.”
Hoffman’s biggest reservations as the restart nears are in travel, living arrangements and eating. The plan includes a charter plane to take players and caddies to the next tournament on the schedule and a designated hotel for all at each site. Room service is highly recommended. The plan is basically a beefed-up version of shelter-at-home guidelines.
Still, there will be increased contact with people in airplanes, hotels and the quest for food.
“I’ve gotten a ton of homecooked meals the last eight weeks or so and it’s been very nice going to the grocery store once every two weeks and staying at home and eating. That’s not the case on the road,” Hoffman said. “So you’ll be doing a lot of takeout, probably with your caddie because that’s the person you’re in closest contact with. That’s the variable where there’s a little uncertainty we’re all going to have. But I think it will be safe.”