The PGA Tour hopes to take delivery of up to one million Covid-19 test kits to assist with the completion of its season from 11 June. President Trump’s desire to use sport as a key vehicle to accelerate a return to normality in the United States is emphasised by a plan to allow those involved in PGA Tour events into the country under the auspice of essential travel. The PGA Tour remains confident of pushing forward with tournaments given the scale of government backing.
The Tour announced a revised schedule last week, featuring 14 tournaments until 7 September. The first four, starting with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, will be closed to spectators. Estimates are that between 700 and 800 personnel will still be needed on site.
The Tour’s rigorous testing procedures will involve players, caddies and officials being sent testing kits – as already on mass order – to their home, with a further and immediate check required if anyone has travelled to a tournament by aeroplane. Multiple daily tests will subsequently be undertaken by each individual on tournament week, with anyone returning a positive result asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. The appearance of Tour events is likely to be in stark contrast to pre-coronavirus times, with locker rooms and player dining facilities not available.
The Ryder Cup remains in its original position of late September at Whistling Straits. Talks regarding the viability of that – with or without fans – are due to continue this week. The qualification process for the US and European teams will also be up for discussion.
Testing procedures were a key topic as Trump addressed the media on Friday. The US president insisted his nation had already undertaken almost 3.8m tests. It is unclear precisely what type of kits the Tour has on order – or what level can be delivered – but both Trump and golf administrators have pointed towards the usefulness of saliva tests, as recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration but currently for emergency use. Testing machines have been considered but are thought more likely when the general public are permitted entry to tournaments.
Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour’s commissioner, has stressed both the necessity for bulk testing and that golf should know its place in terms of national priorities. “We need to have widespread, large-scale testing across our country, where we are going to be able to test players, caddies and other constituents before we return,” said Monahan. “But we need to do so in a way that’s not going to take away from the critical need we’re going to be facing.”
The Tour estimates at least 25 member players and 35 caddies are currently outside of the US. If border restrictions into the US are not alleviated by mid-June, there is an understanding these individuals will still be granted entry if working at golf tournaments. What this means in respect of return to their native countries is unclear.
Monahan joined a group of leading sports commissioners in discussion with Trump last midweek. A similar meeting took place in early April. The NBA, in stark contrast to golf, remains circumspect about a return to competition. “We are not in a position to make any decisions,” said Adam Silver, the NBA’s commissioner on Friday. “And it’s unclear when we will be.”
The first major of the golf season, the US PGA Championship, is due to take place in a rescheduled slot from 6 August. There remains scepticism whether Harding Park in San Francisco will be able to stage the event. Valhalla in Kentucky and Hazeltine in Minnesota – host to the 2016 Ryder Cup – are among back-up options.
The European Tour, which is also mindful of necessary testing protocols upon a possible August restart, is expected to issue schedule revisions in the coming days.