LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Justin Thomas said getting back into the swing of things on the PGA Tour after a three-month break due to the coronavirus pandemic has a different feel to it.
It means daily temperature checks, filling out health questionnaires, knowing where the hand-sanitising stations are and social distancing on the tee boxes.
The Charles Schwab Challenge will be full of firsts as the PGA Tour’s restart begins today in Texas with the 148-field teeing off at the Colonial Country Club.
“I would say 2020 is beyond a bizarre year so far, and especially in the world of sports it’s just going to be different,” said the former world number one Thomas.
“If we all want to get back and play the game that we love we’re just going to have to get over the fact that it’s going to be different and be a little weird.”
World number one Rory McIlroy and second-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain lead a strong field that includes 15 of the world’s top 20 players.
World number three Brooks Koepka, defending champion Kevin Na, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson are also teeing up at the course in Fort Worth, Texas.
Some of the sport’s top players from outside of North America decided to skip the event because travelling to the United States (US) would mean a two-week quarantine, including 10th-ranked Englishman Tommy Fleetwood.
The biggest change, since the Tour was shut down in March at the Players Championship, is that organisers are not allowing any spectators this week.
The Tour is also going to leave open the 8.46am tee time and instead have a one-minute moment of silence to mark the death of George Floyd, who has become a symbol of racial injustice in America.
American Jordan Spieth said it is important for the Tour to show its support for the US black community.
“I think it’s really cool. I think it’ll be something that hopefully we can kind of stick with however long we need to. But I think it’s certainly a really nice thing to do with the way things have been,” Spieth said.
One player who will be notably absent is Tiger Woods who has won 15 major championships and is chasing Jack Nicklaus (18) for the most in history.
Woods looked sharp in a recent exhibition match with Mickelson, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Fellow American Thomas said it will be interesting to see how the social distancing works, especially on the tee boxes which can get pretty crowded with players, caddies and officials.
“What’ll be weird is when you stand on the tee boxes trying to separate yourself a bit from your competitors.
“Normally when you’re on the tee box everyone is crunched up in the same area. It’ll be a little bit unusual just trying to actually focus on social distancing on the tee.”