Martin Dempster: Safety is more important than birdies in PGA Tour’s return

Scary week ahead for Rory McIlroy and other top players
Top-ranked Rory McIlroy is among the star-studded line-up playing at Fort Worth. Picture: Getty.Top-ranked Rory McIlroy is among the star-studded line-up playing at Fort Worth. Picture: Getty.
Top-ranked Rory McIlroy is among the star-studded line-up playing at Fort Worth. Picture: Getty.

A golf tournament. Remember that? Yes, it really does seem that long ago when anyone cared a damn about people making birdies and bogeys on television.

In truth, that is still way down the list of priorities in the world right now, but the first big step in golf’s journey back from its Covid-19 shutdown takes place this week.

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The Charles Schwab Challenge, which starts on Thursday at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth in Texas, marks the return of the PGA Tour, which has been in cold storage since 13 March.

Being held in a “bubble” behind closed doors, it has attracted the strongest field of the season on the US circuit. Fifteen of the top 20 in the world are teeing up, including top-ranked Rory McIlroy, No 2 Jon Rahm and third-ranked Brooks Koepka.

It will be exciting to see so many of the game’s top players back at the coalface, but does anyone really care in this instance who comes out on top at the end of 72 holes?

The most important thing by far this week is whether or not the event is successful in terms of safety because, make no mistake, there is an element of risk involved.

Since Saturday, onsite testing of players, caddies and tournament support staff has been conducted onsite by Sanford Health, a leading US health-care company, with the PGA Tour expecting to test around 400 individuals at not only this event but also for the rest of the season.

In truth, it seems way too early for tournament golf to be returning in a country where around 120,000 lives have been lost due to Covid-19 and reported cases are nudging 2 million. But fair play to the likes of McIlroy, Rahm and Koepka for having faith to be part of what will be a scary week for everyone.

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