#PGA Tour restart will feel like a major even without Tiger Woods

#PGA Tour restart will feel like a major even without Tiger Woods

FORT WORTH, Texas — You have to search hard to find any sliver of good that’s come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some businesses have prospered because of the crisis because they offered things we needed.

In the case of golf — specifically the PGA Tour — the first four events that are a part of the restart will enjoy some of the most star-studded fields in their respective histories during the next month.

That begins with this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club, where the five top-ranked players in the world and eight of the top 10 will play beginning with Thursday’s first round.

If you’ve missed golf for the past three months while it — and every other sport — has been suspended because of the pandemic, you’re not going to want to miss this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge.

It may be somewhat insulting to say, but Colonial and next week’s tournament, the RBC Heritage, and the Rocket Mortgage Championship, which is only in its second year of existence, have been afterthoughts on the Tour schedule. The top players generally skip them.

The RBC always comes the week after the Masters, so that’s a tough draw for the stars.

The Travelers Championship, which is batting third in this new schedule, usually is played the week after the grueling U.S. Open and, until recent years, was an event largely ignored by the stars.

Not this year, though. All four events will have their respective share of the best in the game.

It seems most of the top players in the world are as starved to return to completion as we are to watch them compete for the first time since the sport was shut down following the opening round of The Players Championship March 12.

No. 1-ranked Rory McIlroy will be teeing it up this week as well as Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson.

Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and a slew of other stars are in the field.

The biggest name missing is the biggest name in the game — Tiger Woods. It’s not known whether he’ll play any of the first four events before playing the Memorial next month — a staple in his schedule.

Charles Schwab tournament director Michael Tothe held out some hope that Woods might play Colonial, saying, “We’d love to have Tiger, but even without him we’re going to have our best field ever.”

The tournament directors for the other three no-spectator events share a similar sentiment. They’d love to have Woods, but their fields are strong without him and the TV audience may not be as affected by his presence one way or the other because there figure to be a lot of eyeballs on the tournaments anyway.

Other than Woods, the only big names not in the field this week are some of the non-American players like Tommy Fleetwood, because of the COVID-19 rules in place that require anyone coming to the U.S. from out of the county to quarantine for 14 days. Aussie Adam Scott is also skipping the first several events.

There aren’t many skipping them, however, with the likes of McIlroy and Koepka and Day other big names planning to play the RBC Heritage next week at the Harbour Town Golf Links at Hilton Head, S.C.

McIlroy, Thomas and several other big hitters headline the Travelers in two weeks outside of Hartford, Conn.

The last of the first four, the Rocket Mortgage Championship in Detroit, is also expecting a stout field.

The forced pause from the pandemic has players hungry for competition.

The only golf we’ve seen played since mid-March have been the two charity events to benefit COVID-19 relief — the shootout with McIlroy, Johnson, Fowler and Matthew Wolff at Seminole and the match at Medalist between Woods and Peyton Manning and Mickelson and Tom Brady.

The match at Medalist drew record TV ratings, which gives you an idea of the thirst golf and sports fans have to see live action right now.

This week has the feel and anticipation of a season opener. Neither the NBA, NHL nor MLB has started back up again. At long last, golf gives us something to look forward to.


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