“#It’s like ‘Opening Day’ for the PGA Tour”
But when Thursday’s first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge arrives to mark the official restart of the PGA Tour season, it’s going to feel like a true Opening Day.
It’s going to have the feel of that first midweek baseball game in the spring or the feel of that first NFL Thursday night game in early September.
It’s going to be wonderful.
It has been three months since the PGA Tour has conducted a tournament. The COVID-19 pandemic shut the sport down after the opening round of The Players Championship on March 12. So 90 days will have separated that first round of The Players and Thursday’s anticipated opening round at Colonial Country Club.
“I like looking at it as a fresh start, personally, as an Opening Day almost,’’ Jordan Spieth said Tuesday. “It would be nice if we could get like some fighter jets flying over the first tee shots, something like that, that you’d see at an Opening Day stadium. It’s got a little bit of that kind of excitement to it.
“It’s the longest I think probably anybody who’s playing in this tournament has gone in between golf tournaments in their career, unless they were injured. I think everybody has got a little bit of those kind of Opening Day jitters.’’
Ryan Palmer, a Texan who happens to be a member of Colonial Country Club, will strike the first tee shot off of No. 1 at 6:50 a.m. Thursday, and with that mainstream sports will have begun again for the first time since the pandemic paralyzed them.
“I know I speak for a lot of players [saying] this is a week everybody has [had] circled on their calendar and itching to get back out here,’’ Palmer said Tuesday after playing a practice round at his home club. “It’s time to get back to golf. We need live golf. America needs it. We need live sports. I think this week is going to be a very special, huge week for the sporting world.
“This is going to be a historical week. We’ve never had to come back from something with the COVID-19.’’
Harold Varner III articulated it well when he said, “No one understands how much someone cares about something until it’s taken away, and I think COVID has taught us a lot of that.’’
One of the questions facing this tournament is what the level of play will be with many players not having had a lot of opportunity to play and others, such as the ones who live in Florida where courses mainly stayed open, is what the quality of play will be.
The field, which boast the top five ranked players in the world, eight of the top 10 and 16 of the top 20, is unquestioned. Aside from Tiger Woods’ absence and that of several international players, this has the look of a major championship.
Jon Rahm, who’s ranked No. 2 in the world, said he pays little attention to the rankings considering the long break.
“It’s hard to say anymore who’s the best in the world after not competing for three months,’’ Rahm said. “It all depends on who’s prepared the best or who’s handled the situation the best or who even handles these new rules on the PGA Tour the best.
“It’s just a ranking. It’s a continuously moving thing, and since we’ve been stopped, I don’t think those numbers matter a lot anymore. I think we only can come back and prove that we deserve that spot.’’
What does he expect out of this week?
“Expectations are a hard thing,’’ Rahm said. “I haven’t competed in three months, which is basically the longest break I’ve ever had since I started playing golf competitively. Obviously, every time I tee it up, the goal is to win, so I’m here to play, to play and to win hopefully. But expectations? Who knows?
“Things are a little bit different. The atmosphere is going to be a little bit different, so I think it’s going to be a period of getting used to things.’’
Justin Thomas predicted the quality of play this week will “be all over the place, because of rust, because of how much guys have been practicing, but also just being away from competitive golf that long or how they choose to use their time off.”
“You’re going to see definitely a wide variety of scores, not just because of the golf course but just to see who used their time well or not,’’ Thomas went on. “The hardest thing for me is just going to be getting back into it and the fact that that 4-footer I have on the first hole matters. It’s real. It’s not just going out and having a money game with your buddies. Every count shots.
“It matters, and it’s cumulative score for four days. That’s I think for me the thing that’s going to be the hardest, because I sometimes feel rusty after two, three weeks off, let alone four months. That’s going to be weird, but at the same time it’s going to be weird for everybody.’’
And it’s going to be wonderful.