The World Welcomes Back Golf: PGA Tour at the Charles Schwab Challenge
After nearly three months of no golf, the PGA Tour resumes this week with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. While this event has been somewhat popular among Tour pros in past years, this week’s field is absolutely stacked with big names, as players jump on the opportunity to finally compete once again. All top five players in the world, and 16 of the world’s top 20 (excluding big names like Tiger Woods and Adam Scott), are set to tee it up Thursday, whereas this tournament has never even had the world’s top two players in the past.
Despite the sweltering temperatures and big names, the top story of this week will be how the PGA Tour and players alike handle the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. As a precaution, spectators will not be allowed at the course this week. Television crews are also said to be operating at 50% capacity as well. All participants will be tested well before play begins Thursday and results will be readily available within hours. Strangely, several players have communicated that the absence of fans may actually act as an added distraction. “Can you imagine if somebody makes a 30-foot bomb on 18 to win the tournament? Nothing? Crickets?” golfer Jon Rahm wondered. “It's going to be a little weird.” Harold Varner III has a slightly different perspective on the whole situation: “For the amount of money they’re playing for and kind of what we stand for, it’s kind of easy to get up for ... if I make a putt to win, I don’t really care if anyone is there, to be honest with you.” But he adds, “It’s our job to make the best of the situation, because we could all be sitting at home right now.”
Varner certainly makes a good point, and tour pros as well as golf fans should only meet this week with excitement. And with no other major American sports going on right now, this event will get more viewers than your normal PGA tournament. Just later last month, The Match II, which was not even an official PGA event, attracted the most viewers of any golf television broadcast in history.
The Tour pros are also given a chance to resume strong seasons—or for others, rebound after slow starts—in the wake of the extended break. Rory McIlroy, who hasn't finished outside of the top five in a PGA Tour tournament in almost a year, is a strong favorite. 2016 Charles Schwab winner Jordan Speith has also fared well at Colonial in the past, even stealing a top 10 finish here in his disappointing 2019 campaign. Webb Simpson, who was having a strong 2020 before the pandemic, has seemed comfortable at Colonial in the past and is another favorite to win this week. Conversely, fan favorite Brooks Koepka is in need of a strong performance, especially given the shortened season, if he wants to make a run in the FedExCup Playoffs this fall. Injuries caused him to miss a few starts at the beginning of the year, and the PGA’s three month absence has only made his uphill climb steeper. But for Koepka, the runner up in this event in 2018, four solid rounds this week would be important.
With the impressive field and looming coronavirus threat in the background, this week is set to be an exciting and important event for both fans and the game of golf in general.