Fans will return to PGA Tour events when it’s safe, says Monahan

FILE PHOTO: PGA: PGA Championship – Practice Round

(Reuters) – PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said on Wednesday the road to this week’s final event of a season interrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak has been a long one and that it may still be some time before fans are allowed back at tournaments.

The Tour Championship, which begins on Friday at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, will be the 14th consecutive PGA Tour event held without fans since play resumed in mid-June after a three-month COVID-19 hiatus.

“Every tournament is starting to plan for multiple potential outcomes, and hopefully planning towards the return of what we know as normal, and that’s fans on-site,” said Monahan.

“Just given the consistently fluid nature of the virus and the way different communities are responding, each discussion is a different discussion. And so you may see different tournaments returning at different levels as we get into the end of the year and into ’21.”

Monahan said the PGA Tour plans to enter the second phase of a five-phase return plan and at the Sept. 24-27 Corales Puntacana event will hold its first pro-am since play resumed.

“When we feel like it’s safe to return fans out here, that’s when fans will return,” said Monahan.

In its second event back the PGA Tour had a player tested positive for COVID-19. The following week there were seven tournament withdrawals due to the virus.

“Our confidence was shaken in those first couple weeks with a few incidents and situations, but we expected that to happen,” said Monahan. “That’s the nature of what we were dealing with.”

While the last positive COVID-19 test involving a player came on Aug. 1, the PGA Tour is not about to let its guard down.

“It hasn’t been perfect, and we’re not claiming victory by any stretch. In fact, we continue to learn and adapt,” said Monahan.

“But I’m so proud of the team we put into place in March to help solve this giant jigsaw puzzle.”

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)