- Senior golf writer for ESPN.com
- Covered golf for more than 20 years
- Earned Evans Scholarship to attend Indiana University
With the PGA Tour set to resume its revised schedule next month in Texas, a lengthy memo was sent to players outlining the various procedures that will be put in place, highlighted by a testing approach that will include coronavirus testing as well as daily thermal screens.
A copy of the memo was obtained by ESPN. The PGA Tour has a news conference scheduled for Wednesday to outline the plan in more detail.
The Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, is the first of four events on the schedule that are planned to be played without spectators. The tour also has arranged for charter flights between the events for players and caddies.
Players, caddies and various tournament officials and employees will be required to fill out a health questionnaire and also will be sent a pre-travel screening test. They also will be required to take nasal swab/saliva test upon arrival, likely at a designated hotel, followed by daily questionnaires and screenings.
The idea behind the “Healthy & Safety Plan” is to create a “bubble” in which those in tournaments will operate, with the hope that they isolate from the general public as much as possible.
The confidential presentation is meant as a guide and “will continue to evolve as we move closer to the start of the PGA Tour season,” the memo said.
“While we believe we have created an extremely comprehensive health and safety plan, we will not play if we do not feel we can provide a safe and healthy environment for all constituents.”
According to the memo, the nasal swabs testing for COVID-19 will take 24 to 48 hours to get a result, with players allowed to practice and play on site while waiting for the results. But that timing could vary from tournament to tournament, and the tour said it hopes at some point to have test results within a matter of hours.
For the Texas event, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price told ESPN earlier this week that the city and tournament have partnered with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center to provide tests. She expected a faster turnaround time than the tour noted in its memo.
As per commissioner Jay Monahan’s previously stated intentions that widespread testing needed to be available and that the tour would not be stepping ahead of those in need, the memo again stated that they “will not take away resources from the community.”
If a player has a thermal test exceeding a temperature above 100.4 degrees on any day, he will then likely be required to take a coronavirus test. Anyone testing positive for the coronavirus will have to immediately quarantine and will be unable to compete in the tournament. (In the event this occurs to a player after making the 36-hole cut, he will be paid last-place money.)
As part of the tour’s plan to minimize “risk of infection,” players’ families will not be permitted at the golf course and they will have limited support personnel available. A trainer or a swing coach can accompany a player but will be subject to the various testing protocols. The tour also is recommending “stay at home” practices outside of the tournament venue and likely will have one or two designated hotels in each city.
For the competition itself, the tour is going to allow caddies to handle flagsticks and bunker rakes, but is requiring them to wipe it down afterward. It is also asking them to socially distance from those in the group as much as possible while asking the players to pull and return golf clubs to the bag.
“The player should take care and limit the interaction with their caddie during the round,” the memo said.
The memo, which is 37 pages, also outlines practices for the driving range, the putting green and other areas around the club. A limited number of media personnel also will be permitted, with social-distancing rules and reduced interviews.
The PGA Championship had been originally scheduled for this week, the 10th consecutive week of golf that has not taken place. The Players Championship was canceled after the first round on March 12. Last month, the PGA Tour announced a revised schedule that begins with Charles Schwab and continues into December.
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