10 takeaways from the revised schedule
April 16, 2020
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- April 16, 2020
- The 2019-20 PGA TOUR season is slated to resume the second week in June at the Charles Schwab Challenge. (Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
With the PGA TOUR announcing its revised schedule – the 2019-20 season will resume the second week of June with the Charles Schwab Challenge – TOUR executives Andy Pazder (Chief Tournament and Competitions Officer) and Tyler Dennis (Chief of Operations) were on hand to address a few key topics related to the news.
Their main point of emphasis is that the utmost safety and health measures will be taken for the benefit of all those connected to the tournaments as well as the host communities. “We will play only when we are certain that it is safe and responsible to do that,” Pazder said.
Other key points:
JUNE 11 START: The first round of the revised schedule is June 11 at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. Pazder said moving the Charles Schwab Challenge back three weeks was a key factor in determining when to re-start the season. “There's a lot that can happen in a positive way in those three additional weeks with this delay, and that was, I think, what drove us,” he said. While Pazder said the TOUR is optimistic the date will hold, there are no certainties in the current coronavirus landscape. “I'm not going to say on this call that I have 110 percent certainty, but we are very confident that we will be able to play that second week in June,” he said. Pazder added that his level of confidence is based on the developments being made in regard to testing. “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. “We know that there will also be further developments over the next eight weeks before we were to resume play.”
NO FANS. The first four events are slated to be played without fans, which will allow tournaments to stay in compliance with social distancing guidelines. Pazder said only people essential to conducting the tournament will be allowed – players, caddies, tournament rules officials, broadcast team, select number of people from the host organizations. Walking scorers also will likely be needed to “properly score the event and disseminate information across various platforms, whether it's the telecast or digitally and so forth.” Other constituent groups are being evaluated for potential inclusion.
ON-SITE TESTING. Dennis said the TOUR is spending a “lot of time right now learning about testing” and that as it becomes widely available, it would be appropriate to use testing to help golf’s 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,” Dennis said. “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.” Specifically in regards to players, Dennis said one possibility is to have them tested before they leave home, “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.”
SOCIAL DISTANCING. With health and safety the primary factors, Dennis said the TOUR will make sure interaction between all on-site constituents – players, caddies, officials, etc. – will abide by social distancing guidelines. Clean and sanitary conditions will be provided. “There's a big project going on to think about those details,” Dennis said, “and as we get closer, we'll certainly share with you guys those details of how that day would look.” Pazder added the players who may not feel comfortable can make their own decisions whether to compete. “That's one of the beauties of being a PGA TOUR member; you're an independent contractor,” Pazder said. “You're not required to be at any PGA TOUR event. So they have that discretion to play tournaments where they favor the golf course or tournaments or in this instance, they may or may not feel comfortable. But that's an individual player decision.”
INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS. With travel restrictions now in effect for many countries, there remains the possibility of international players not being able to travel to the United States for tournaments this summer. Currently, a minimum of 25 players and 35 caddies live outside the U.S. and are subject to those restrictions. “We are paying very close attention to if and when those restrictions are changed,” Pazder said. Added Dennis: “We have our team that is overseeing all the tournaments, evaluating that question and a host of other questions as part of a risk analysis that we do for every tournament.”
RBC HERITAGE. The tournament, originally scheduled for this week, was among those initially canceled by the TOUR in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic. But now it is back on the schedule as the second event of the restart after the Charles Schwab Challenge. Pazder said developments with tournaments such as the U.S. Open (moved to the fall), Open Championship (canceled) and Olympics (canceled) provided the TOUR with an opportunity to re-evaluate canceled events. Other factors were considered before the TOUR opted to bring back the tournament at Harbour Town. “Agronomics, for example, play an important role,” Pazder said. “Harbour Town Golf Links is overseeded for the April playing of the RBC Heritage, and we needed to be certain that it would transition quickly enough to the summer grass and Bermudagrass in order to be confident we could play June 15-21. We had conversations with the governor of South Carolina, with the mayor of Hilton Head Island, obviously with our host organization, the Heritage Classic Foundation, to make certain that our parties were on board with rescheduling of the Heritage that week, and we're excited that all of that fell into place and we can bring them back on to the schedule.”
CREDIBLE SEASON. Under the revised schedule, there will now be 36 tournaments – including the three FedExCup Playoffs events -- in the 2019-20 season, compared to the original schedule of 49 tournaments. With 75 percent of the schedule still intact, along with increased field sizes to 144 players for the Charles Schwab Challenge, the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide and the RBC Heritage, “we do feel, and our player directors on our policy board also feel, that if we are able to conclude a schedule that has 36 events, that would constitute a credible FedExCup season,” Pazder said. Should the number of tournaments need further reductions, Pazder said, “We have not defined that threshold if we fall below X number of tournaments, then Y will happen.”
FEDEXCUP IMPLICATIONS. There will be no adjustments in the FedExCup points structure for the regular season events in the current season. But Pazder did say TOUR officials are evaluating a potential change with the first two FedExCup Playoffs events, “given that roughly 25 percent of our season has been canceled, taking roughly 30 percent of total FedEx points out of the equation.” The first two Playoffs events, THE NORTHERN TRUST and the BMW Championship, offer four times the value of points from the regular season, but conversations with the Player Advisory Council and player directors have involved potentially reducing the points to three times the value. As for the 2020-21 season that now will include two Masters and two U.S. Opens, Pazder said there are no plans to adjust the points structure. The majors and THE PLAYERS Championship are the only tournaments to offer a maximum of 600 points to the winner, meaning there will now be seven of those events instead of the usual five.
BROADCAST CHANGES. Every TOUR event is scheduled to be telecast – CBS will televise the Charles Schwab Challenge through THE NORTHERN TRUST (11 consecutive events, inclusive of PGA Championship), and NBC will televise the BMW Championship and TOUR Championship, culminating on Labor Day Monday. Dennis said the TOUR is working with its broadcast partners not only to keep personnel safe but also to discuss potential approaches to the telecast, especially with the no-fan events. “We could face a slightly or create a slightly different type of telecast,” Dennis said. “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 and 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.”
KORN FERRY TOUR. Although one tournament (the Evans Scholars Invitational) was postponed and three others canceled, the Korn Ferry Tour has added a new event to mark its return to competition the week of June 8. The event will be played at Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass (which hosted the Korn Ferry Tour Championship from 2013-15) and will be operated without fans. It’s planned as a one-off event for now. In addition, the TOUR is evaluating promotional protocols with the shortened season. Said Dennis: “We've sort of looked at one option where there would be a hybrid model I'd call it where we would reward all of the players on the PGA TOUR this year based on their play but find a way to also retain, for those who didn't say make the Top 125, retain some type of access into the next season, and then that would flow down to the Korn Ferry TOUR and how the graduates would morph between their seasons in a hybrid way, as well. … We're still in the process of analyzing that and evaluating options with our PAC and player directors.”