Things aren’t back to normal even as leagues return to play after sports worldwide were paused due to COVID-19. Some U.S. sports, like golf, are returning to play without fans in attendance. This takes some getting used as viewers are used to seeing and hearing fans.
This “new normal” also leads to unintentionally funny moments. This was evidenced at the PGA Tour’s first event back after the coronavirus pandemic-related suspension.
Golf returns with the PGA Tour
The Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, marked the PGA’s return. This took place in the middle of June after about a two-month break; the first of the tour’s 14 scheduled tournaments in a 13-week period. The Schwab was spectator-free. No fans sat in the galleries to prevent the spread of the virus.
All players, caddies, and staff got tested for COVID-19 before the event. Of the first 481 people tested, commissioner Jay Monahan said they didn’t have any positive tests.
Golf.com reports golfers stayed safe during the event by staying at PGA-recommended hotels, where they had their temperatures checked and received answers to questions about potential symptoms. On the course, they maintained social distancing from their caddies per the PGA’s rules.
How’d the tournament go?
A number of strong performances took place at the tournament, with 15-under winning it. Bryson DeChambeau was in contention entering Sunday’s final round. But he finished one shot back at the end of the 72 holes. DeChambeau was tied for the lead on the 17th hole. Then, a bogey did him in, and he finished at 14-under par.
Daniel Berger and Collin Morikawa found themselves tied for the lead after the final round. So they went on to a tiebreaker. They only needed one tiebreak hole, which happened to be the same No. 17 that ended DeChambeau’s hopes of winning the tournament.
Like DeChambeau, Morikawa bogeyed the par-4 hole. But Berger needed just four strokes to sink his ball, giving him a championship par, earning him the PGA’s first title since March and the $1.375 million check that accompanied the victory.
The funny side effect of a fan-free tournament
There are usually throngs of fans following the golfers all over the course, but that will not be the case for the PGA’s first few events after coming back from its suspension.
With no fans, there is less noise on the course than usual — meaning the TV broadcasts can pick up more on-course audio than they usually do. That’s a good thing because it helps to bring the viewers closer to the action — but it can also be a bad thing.
That was the case when Jon Rahm, the world’s second-ranked golfer at the time, was pleased with his performance. He had a rather impressive shot on the par-3 eight hole, and he complimented himself by saying the shot was “pretty f… good there.” Golfers probably use language like that all the time, but the noise from the fans drown them out. That wasn’t the case at the Schwab challenge, with the lack of cheering fans.
The audio of Rahm’s curse came through loud and clear on the TV broadcast. As is the case when a network’s mics pick up profanity during a sporting event, broadcaster Jim Nantz apologized afterward, saying they “were hoping for better audio with no fans surrounding the course. We apologize if anyone was offended by what they may have heard there.”