Golf makes a conservative return with an eye on the long run

FILE - In this March 13, 2020, file photo, PGA Tour Commission Jay Monahan is shown during a news conference in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Monahan decided against a public statement on the civil unrest sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, instead sending a letter to players. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan went from wondering if any golf would be played this year to a schedule that resumes next week with a calendar filled through Thanksgiving.

What hasn't changed is his belief that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic isn't over just because golf is back.

“I don't think it's over," Monahan said Friday in a telephone interview. “I'm really confident in the plan. But you spend a lot of your time, given the uncertainty, thinking through scenarios that could play out. That's what we'll continue to do. We won't be comfortable until we're told we can be comfortable. That will be when we have a vaccine and there's no risk.”

Golf is the second major sports league to return behind NASCAR, which began racing three weeks ago and ran nine national series races in a span of 14 days.

The Charles Schwab Challenge next week in Fort Worth, Texas, has one of the strongest fields in Colonial's rich history, starting with the top five players from the world ranking.

There will be no spectators for at least a month, even though Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this week moved the state to Phase III in the recovery that allows outdoor events at 50% capacity.

“We've developed a safety plan that doesn't include spectators. That's what we stand by,” Monahan said. “We want to have a sustained return. If you think about a run to go through the FedEx Cup, we want to make sure week to week we're not taking on unnecessary risk.”

Monahan said he is “not the arbiter of confidence,” rather it comes from guidance of health experts at all levels and a plan that involves testing players, caddies and essential personnel as much as twice a week — trying to create a bubble for the traveling circus that is golf.