No fans in Riviera, no fans in Palm Springs for the PGA Tour

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HONOLULU (TBEN) – No fans in Los Angeles. No amateurs in Palm Springs. Those were the latest announcements of the PGA Tour stops in California as golf returns to the mainland next week.

The Genesis Invitational in Riviera February 18-21 was predictable. COVID-19 cases rage in the state with the country’s largest population. The death toll in California reached 30,000 dead on Monday.

“Throughout our extensive planning, it has become clear that due to the pandemic the best way to ensure the safety of everyone involved is to hold the tournament without spectators,” the tournament director said on Tuesday. Mike Antolini.

The first stop is next week in the California desert for The American Express, typically played over three courses and one of two tournaments that feature amateurs during the competition. The other is the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

It will now be played on two courses at PGA West (Stadium Course and Nicklaus Tournament Course). The 54-hole pro-am format, which had been part of the tournament since its inception in 1960, has been eliminated. He is expected to return next year. There will be a pro-am Wednesday at American Express, typical of regular events since last fall.

Even so, there are signs of improvement.

The Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines follows The American Express and will have no fans. Then it’s the Phoenix Open, which sees around 8,000 people per day – it typically draws around 600,000 fans for the week – and a one-story structure around the usually noisy 16th hole.

Pebble Beach will have no fans but will stick to its legendary amateur format, a mix of artists, executives and Fortune 500 athletes. Pebble at least as a little idea what to expect to have hosted a PGA Tour Champions event last fall.

“We’re moving forward,” said tournament director Steve John.

John said Pebble Beach is adding vans for shuttle players, cadets and tournament staff to the three courses used in the rotation. He said the hard part was telling longtime volunteers – they come from all over the country for a week in the Monterey Peninsula – that their services are not needed.

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The four West Coast Swing tournament directors keep in touch as they have a lot in common.

“We talk about what we do. Everyone is in the same boat, with limited access to the golf course, ” John said.

The PGA Tour is working on plans for the World Golf Championship in Mexico City, which is unlikely to be held this year without fans being allowed. And then it left for Florida and Texas in the five weeks leading up to the Masters.

The Players’ Championship foresees a limited number of fans, although details are still evolving.

The Honda Classic, staged after The Players this year, says it will have limited fans, but there will be room for them around the home stretch and on the 18th green.

“We’re the first really big tour to come here and do this stuff, so I think we still have to watch ourselves over what we’re doing and where we’re going to go,” PGA Champion Collin Morikawa said. “ But for the most part, you know, slowly to start seeing fans, it’s going to be really exciting. ”

KEEP PLAYING

Lee Westwood has already competed for 16 consecutive weeks on the European Tour, not stopping until breaking through with his first victory in the Volvo Scandinavian Masters. Was the idea to keep playing until he won? No.

“I was 23,” Westwood said once.

It is this kind of approach that Charles Howell III suggests to young players to adopt. The topic was sponsor exemptions for fresh out of college players trying to get PGA Tour cards. The idea behind a bye is to do a young player a favor now with the hope that when he grows up he will return to the tournament as the stars.

But when a player wins and their schedule changes, it can be difficult.

“A lot of young guys now, they’re ready to win earlier,” said Howell. It’s really hard for them to balance the schedule because as soon as you win, you’re in everything. ”

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Howell didn’t win right away, but he did well enough on sponsor exemptions that he didn’t have to go to Q-school. Again, he was someone who was always playing a big program.

“Looking back, I would encourage them to play a lot of golf,” said Howell. “You don’t have the obligation of a family. You don’t have any children. You don’t have a school schedule you’re dealing with, you don’t book a father-daughter dance and this and that. So while you’re young my advice is to gamble a lot. This is what you do. ”

END OF A DROUGHT

Harris English is part of a curious trend this season on the PGA Tour. He is the fifth player to have left at least six years since his last victory on tour.

The English won in November 2013 and then won a knockout series on Sunday in Kapalua in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

“You sure have some inspiration here from the guys,” English said.

Stewart Cink started off by winning the Safeway Open, his first victory since the 2009 British Open at Turnberry.

Martin Laird won in Las Vegas, his first title since the Texas Open in 2013. Brian Gay won the Bermuda Championship after not winning since the Humana Challenge in 2013. And then Robert Streb won at Sea Island for the second time. He won his other PGA Tour event at Sea Island in 2014.

The difference? Englishman was No. 29 in the world when he finally broke through again. The other players were all outside the top 300 in the world rankings.

DATE CHANGES

The USGA advances the US Senior Women’s Open by three weeks, another change in women’s golf to avoid competition.

The Senior Women’s Open, canceled last year due to the pandemic, was originally scheduled for August 19-22 at the Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Connecticut. It is the same week as the Women’s British Open in Carnoustie. Laura Davies, who won the inaugural US Senior Women’s Open, typically plays in the Women’s British Open, with a few others eligible for both events.

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It will now be July 29 to August 1.

“ After listening to player feedback and consulting with our new broadcast partner (Golf Channel), it was clear that separating the weekdays from the AIG Women’s Open was important to the overall success of the Championship, ” said John Bodenhamer, the Senior Director in charge of the USGA Championships.

This was the second time in the past six months that golf organizations have shown a willingness to adjust schedules. The Curtis Cup was originally scheduled to be held September 3-5 in Wales until the R&A realized it was the same weekend as the Solheim Cup, and fans might have to choose between the Curtis Cup and the Junior Solheim Cup. The Curtis Cup has been moved from August 26 to 28.

DIVOTS

Justin Thomas shot 278 last year and won at Kapalua in the playoffs. Without the wind and the soft grass of the overnight rain, he shot 268 this year and missed the playoffs with one stroke. … Every Sony Open winner since 2010 has finished in the top 10 in key putting stats. … Webb Simpson has shot 63 or better 18 times since 2009, the most player count on the PGA Tour.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Sergio Garcia birdie or better on every par 5 except one he played in Kapalua. He was 17 under par 5 and finished 18 under for the tournament in a tie for 11th.

LAST WORD

“You try to get to the other side of your lull and a bad shot is like, ‘Here we are, I’m back to the same place, I’m not getting any better.’ It’s really hard to get out of it. – Harris English, who finished more than seven years without a win at Kapalua.

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