That will finally change this week on the Champions Tour. According to a report from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, fans will be permitted on site at this week’s Sanford International on each of the three competition days, but there will be a number of safety protocols in place.
Everyone will be obliged to undergo temperature checks before being permitted to the grounds. Although not mandatory, the wearing of masks will be “strongly encouraged”. Tournament organizers have also installed extra hand sanitizing stations and credit cards will be accepted at all concessions stands — which will serve pre-packaged foods — to limit cash transactions.
Unfortunately no autographs will be allowed. “It’s not a decision we entered into lightly or did with a cavalier mindset,” Sanford International executive vice president Micah Aberson told the Argus Leader of the decision to permit fans.
“We did it working closely with our team of clinicians and infectious disease doctors. We took their best clinical expertise and married it with common sense, and that allowed us to unveil a tournament plan we think is going to be extremely effective.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan indicated two weeks ago that he was bullish on the prospect of reintroducing fans to the grounds of Tour events during the fall. The chances of that happening are likely contingent on how effective the Champions Tour plan turns out to be.
“We’re excited to show and demonstrate to others you can do this effectively,” Aberson said. “There’s no better venue than the wide-open expanse of a golf course to socially distance and enjoy the golf”.
One golfer who is very likely excited about the prospect of spectators returning, is Tiger Woods. It seems there is just no way to replicate the feeling of a large-scale Tour event. Woods said that he’s used to deriving his own energy from the feeling in the crowd.
“Always have,” he said. “I’ve played in front of thousands of people ever since I turned pro 24 years ago. Woods allowed that there are some perks; it’s an undeniably easier existence this way.
Practice rounds in particular have been a breeze. “It’s always been odd when I haven’t played in front of people, and you know, in one way, it’s been nice between tees not getting tapped or getting a glove pulled out of my pocket.
Those are things I’ve had to deal with for a very long time”.
In total, though, Woods would much prefer the vibe of the crowd.
“You hit good shots and you get on nice little runs, we don’t have the same energy, the same fan energy,” he said.
“It is different”. “Absolutely,” Woods said. “Anyone who has played in front of thousands of people, it is very different. Usually between 20,000 and 40,000 people screaming and yelling. That’s always been one of the things I’ve become accustomed to; the guys who played with me, who haven’t become accustomed to it, they have only experienced one round here and there; that’s been every round I’ve played for over two decades.
“That advantage, for me and some of the other top players that have been out here for a while who have experienced it, trying to deal with all that noise and the movement, that experience is no longer there. “Also, I think that’s one of the reasons why you’re seeing more lower scores now,” he added, just two days removed from Scottie Scheffler shooting 59 and Dustin Johnson shooting 60 on the same day.
“You don’t have the same type of energy. Guys aren’t shooting as high of rounds as they normally would”.