Colin Montgomerie believes COVID-19 test kits being earmarked to get professional golf up and running again should be used first and foremost for frontline health workers fighting the pandemic around the world.
It was reported at the weekend that the PGA Tour hopes to take delivery of up to 1 million test kits to assist with the completion of the US-based circuit, which hopes to start up again on 11 June after being shut down due to the coronavirus crisis.
A revised schedule, which was unveiled last week, features 14 tournaments running through until the Tour Championship in Atlanta in early September. The first four will be played without fans in attendance, but it is estimated that between 700 and 800 personnel will still be required on site for the events to operate.
Montgomerie, who plays most of his golf these days in the US on the Champions Tour, described the PGA Tour plans to start up again with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth in just over six weeks as “very optimistic” and believes the test kits being talked about should be prioritised.
“They are talking about a million tests over the course of the year,” he told The Scotsman.
“If they are going spare, then by all means. But you do feel that somehow those million tests could be used for frontline workers more than for us. Everyone is not getting tested yet and frontline staff around the world should be tested first before we get anything.”
As things stand, golf is set to be one of the first sports to start up again, having been shut down essentially around the world after the Players Championship, the game’s so-called fifth major, was halted after the first round on 12 March.
“It’s a shame in many ways that golf is first to go. We are not really following anybody,” added Montgomerie in expressing concern about the PGA Tour’s plans. “We are first to go and, if it does spike up or go wrong – if one of the players contracts this virus or one of the caddies or volunteers among the 600-odd people they say have to be on site at these tournaments even without a crowd – what happens then?”
While the R&A made the decision to cancel the 149th Open, moving it back 12 months, the three other men’s majors have all been rescheduled for later in the year. The US PGA Championship is now due to be played in early August in San Francisco while the US Open and the Masters now have September and November slots respectively.
“My big issue with the whole thing for international players is that the borders are still closed,” said Montgomerie, who is hoping that two of the senior majors in the US can still take place after the cancellation of two already. “I can’t fly to America. Even if I wanted to self-isolate over there for two weeks, I can’t do that as I’m not allowed in. That has to lift before anything, really.
“A lot of the LPGA players are from Korea and other countries outside the US and a lot of the PGA Tour players are international. They have been told by their governments to go home during this pandemic and it’s the same for us. There are a lot of international players on the Champions Tour.
“To think about starting up in June is very optimistic, to say the least. All sorts of different scenarios have to come into play, but I just can’t see it. In America, the federal government doesn’t seem to know what the governors are doing and they don’t seem to know what the local mayor is doing. The local mayors have a lot more power than ours do. But let’s hope we can get back.”