By Bruce Penton
Real live, organized scheduled professional sports returns this week as the PGA Tour holds its breath — along with the rest of the sporting world — by conducting the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Texas.
The 72-hole tournament marks North American sports’ first foray back to pseudo normalcy since mid-March, although not much about how this tournament will be conducted will be normal.
There will be no fans strolling the grounds, urging golf balls to “get in the hole” and no roars of appreciation for 45-foot putts that curl into the cup. There will be elbow bumps and a few ‘air fives’ but little in the way of human contact.
Players will be urged to stay in one of four approved hotels, although they may stay in a rental home or at a friend’s house if proper cleansing precautions have been taken. Testing will be frequent and food at the course will be limited to the ‘grab-and-go’ variety.
The PGA Tour has been inactive since the completion of the first round of the Players Championship in Florida on March 12, the day the entire sports world came to a screeching halt. Hideki Matsuyama fired an opening 63, nine under par, for a two-stroke lead and Canada’s Corey Conners was well positioned after a four-under 68. But that night, the sports world went dark and now, almost three months later, a return is being attempted.
All professional sports organizations will be watching closely. The NHL has announced a format to return to play this summer with the plan to declare a Stanley Cup champion who-knows-when. The NBA also hopes to return to some sort of resumption of play.
Worst-case scenario, of course, would be for a couple of golfers this week, a caddie or two, and perhaps a television technician, to test positive at the course. That will give Commissioner Jay Monahan pause, and the experiment may end about as abruptly as it did back in March.
Best-case scenario, on the other hand, is that all the safety and pre-testing precautions work as planned, and that the tournament is completed without a hitch.
Sports fans everywhere are hoping for the latter — that nothing goes wrong and pro athletes get to show off their skills once again. Golf, MLB, the CFL, NFL and soccer are in the midst of, or the start of, their seasons, so resumption makes sense. NHL and NBA are two organizations that should cancel their plans to resume.
Meanwhile, the eyes of the sporting world will be on Fort Worth, Texas this week. The clubs will be swinging, golf balls will be flying and fingers will be crossing.
• Patti Dawn Swansson, aka the River City Renegade, on Lars-Erik Sjoberg not being named one of the defencemen on the Jets’ all-time roster, as chosen by TSN, instead naming him the team’s ‘foundational’ player: “That’s like giving Jesus Christ a participation badge for showing up at the Last Supper.”
• Swansson again, on the overall work by the TSN voting panel: “Their gaffes were as big as Ondrej Pavelec’s five-hole.”
• Headline at theonion.com: “Slideshow: 11 greatest sports moments made possible by PEDs.”
• Comedy guy Brad Dickson of Omaha: “The former kicker for LSU is transferring to Nebraska. OK, now we HAVE to play football this fall.”
• Comedy writer Eric Stangel on Twitter: “Michael Jordan just saw there’s a Lance Armstrong documentary in his usual spot, and out of anger just went to Lance’s house and scored 54 points on him.”
• Charles Barkley, one of the analysts on The Match: Champions for Charity and a famously terrible golfer, after watching Tom Brady struggle off the tee: “(Brady’s) last three tee shots — woods, cart path, water. What’s wrong with that?”
• Shannon Szabados on Twitter: “Happy the NHL will be back, but without fans how do we expect players to know when to shoot the puck? How will opposing goalies know they suck?”
• RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “A British schoolboy told Reuters he had no idea how a fox ended up in his bed. ‘See?’ said Tiger Woods.”
• Headline in theonion.com: “NFL Reminds Black Coaches They’ll Get Their Chance Once League Runs Out Of Grudens And Shanahans”
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