Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
In a rapidly changing environment last week, the PGA Tour announced that The Players would proceed, then announced that it would proceed without fans and finally after the first round had been played, that it would be cancelled altogether. Given that the NBA, NHL and MLB had already cancelled events for the foreseeable future, did Commissioner Jay Monahan drop the ball on this one?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): No, I believe that Monahan acted responsibly, and did his best to accommodate golf fans around the world, until it became obvious that a shutdown was the best and most prudent course of action. If he was an hour too slow, who cares? He did the best thing, in a timely fashion.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I don’t know, I’m willing to give Jay a small hall pass here. The optics didn’t look good, but they were right in the middle of the event week, and I’m sure they were getting information in as it was being relayed from major health organizations. The US was slow to act overall; I’d chalk this one up to that. In the end, they got to the right place, just maybe 10 hours too late to save some reputation.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: No, he did not. Everything about this virus is in ‘uncharted waters’. Monahan appeared on TV and gave a very good report and then replied to questions accurately and honestly.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I don’t think he did. Golf is fundamentally different from the NBA, NHL, and the MLB in that you can play an entire round without making contact with anyone or getting right in someone’s face to defend/tag them. So, I can understand why the tour was on the fence about canceling events altogether. Banning fans to contain the spread of the coronavirus was the right course of action and ultimately the PGA Tour decided that the safety of its players and staff were more important than keeping the machine running. No arguments here.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Honestly, I think they acted appropriately. Golf is a different game than the others given it is played outside, so there should be a bit more leeway, however once the news came out Thursday of how bad the situation had become, they had no choice but to follow the other sports. They were still ahead of some sports like NASCAR, so I don’t think they were lagging too far behind.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Until the City of Vancouver closed its munis (with the surrounding districts following suit), one comment had been almost as common as ‘wash your hands’ and that was: “At least we can play golf.” Shutting down the indoor sports was a no brainer, baseball too doesn’t provide social distancing, but on the day of the opening round a wind-blown golf course seemed like a sanctuary. Monahan tried to salvage it until reality bit. Fair enough.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): There isn’t a real good road map on how to deal with a pandemic, so it’s hard to say anyone dropped the ball. Monahan might have acted faster but once he got out in front of it, he made all the right decisions. (Note: as of Tuesday, even more PGA Tour events are cancelled through May 10 and the PGA Championship (May 14-17) has been postponed too).
After cancellation of The Players, Monahan announced that half of the $15 million purse would be split equally among all the contestants. The Tour constantly hammers us about their commitment to charity and the tremendous community involvement at each event. Does it seem right that the Tour is doling out approximately $52,000 each to a bunch of millionaires, while caddies, tournament workers and others affected by the cancellation will be missing out?
Deeks: I don’t know the details, but I’m quite confident that the Tour would do the right thing for anyone directly affected by the cancellations. I haven’t heard of anyone complaining that they’ve been left stranded and destitute by the Tour’s decision. Besides, I would hope that caddies would be covered by their players’ shares of the pot.
Loughry: I really hope there is something in it for those other workers considering what other professional organizations are doing in many cases for their people. If not, I smell another PR mess to navigate for Jay. I’d also assume the caddies get paid by their player, which should at least cover their expenses, I hope.
Schurman: The players were paid by a company that they own. Call it ‘due shareholder’. The caddies will probably receive their normal percentage as they should. The volunteers will get what they always get, nothing (maybe a free round at the TPC). The others are businesspeople who undertake an investment hoping for a return. In this case, the business model was unsuccessful. I did read where the food vendors were taking their unsold products to the local food banks and getting tax receipts.
Kaplan: Hell no! That is ridiculous. There are hundreds of better places where that money could be going right now than into the wallets of millionaires. That announcement certainly warranted an eye roll.
Rule: It’s a bit disappointing that they still gave out half of the purse, but I think it’s more disappointing that hardly any of the players came out and said they would donate their earnings to the charity or the workers at the event, or some other cause. Billy Horschel is the only one I’ve heard that did that, and good on him. Seems like that’s the easy thing to do, especially for the top echelon of players, where $50K is a drop in the bucket.
Quinn: Other than perhaps Kuchar, I suspect that the players took care of their bagmen’s expenses plus a nice lump sum for their troubles, which will extend indefinitely. If the Tour hadn’t taken care of the service and maintenance staff, we would have heard about it (loudly) on social media by now.
Mumford: It looks bad in the face of all the hardships that hourly workers are going through to give money to the players. Hopefully, it won’t all go towards jet fuel and some of them will take care of their caddies. As of this writing, Billy Horschel has donated his share to charity. Maybe others will too.
Given the circumstances, Augusta National announced a postponement of the 2020 Masters, which naturally led to speculation about a fall event. Would you be in favour of “Autumn in Augusta” or is it better to forget this year and just get back to a normal schedule next Spring?
Deeks: I’d love to see the Masters happen in the Fall, and two years from now, I can’t imagine a change of date in 2020 being anything other than a minor footnote in the event’s history. It’d be interesting to see how or if the course plays differently in the Fall. But to be honest, I don’t expect it’s going to happen.
Loughry: This is personal, I NEED MY MASTERS. No, I don’t have tickets, but The Masters is my thing, it’s the one event I tell everyone I know to get lost (including my family) so I can watch it by myself and never miss a second of. I don’t care when it’s conducted this year, I just need it. It would be cool to see it at a different time of year. Leaves falling instead of full bloom might have an extra charm, but PLEASE don’t deprive me of MY MASTERS.
Schurman: This virus is full of unknowns. Based on the fake news that has come out of the White House that “all will be well once the warm weather arrives”, people are being far too complacent. As we know, it’s warm in Australia and things aren’t all right there. If this thing gains momentum, it could move like a tsunami, which might have lows in March to May and highs in June or July, before being controlled by September or October. Rather than trying to organize an event for the fall, which BTW would be one step away from organizing a completely new event with a few pieces already in place; move on to 2021.
Kaplan: Forget the Masters? Never!!!! Even if snow was lining Augusta National’s fairways, I would still prefer to watch the Masters over any other event, Canadian Open included.
Rule: I think it would be great to have the event in the fall, although they’d have to put out more fake azaleas to make it look like it normally does in April! I would get excited watching the Masters at any time of year. Let’s hope they can make it happen sometime in 2020!
Quinn: It would be interesting to see the course in a season other than the full-bloom impeccable Springtime. So much of Augusta National’s mystique is in “the look.” Be nice to see if the members have to put up with some autumnal imperfections.
Mumford: Nobody knows when normal will be or even what it may look like. One thing for sure though is that The Masters represents something pretty special in professional golf – one of those foundational events that will inspire hope and confidence in people. It will represent a return to normal. The sooner they play it, the better.