6 burning questions about what’s happening in professional golf

March 17, 2020
tpc sawgrass no. 18

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, there are lots of unknowns. Not just in golf, but in the world at large. We’re not qualified to speak on those unknowns in the context of the world, but as for how this outbreak will affect professional golf, we’ve got you covered.

Here are a few questions and our best answers on how the current state of affairs will affect professional golf.

1. Does the Official World Golf Ranking freeze?

The OWGR is calculated by taking an average of points earned per tournament over a two-year rolling period. So, at the moment, points are calculated from the 2018 WGC-Match Play to the present. But because time is progressing without any world ranking points available for the foreseeable future, the world rankings will still fluctuate. That is, unless they decide to put a “freeze” on the rankings.

When reached for comment on the situation, a representative told us “all these matters are under discussion.” So while there are no plans in place just yet, it is plausible that a retroactive freeze occurs.

While Rory McIlroy’s stay at No. 1 might extend for quite some time, there may be an asterisk in the record books depending on how this situation plays out.

2. What will Golf Channel do during golf’s hiatus?

For a channel dedicated to golf, not having any live golf to broadcast leaves the Golf Channel in a challenging situation. They still have plenty of past events they can re-air in addition to their various shows that have been pre-taped (not to mention the evergreen Kevin Costner flick Tin Cup). Beyond that, there will be no studio shows “for at least a few weeks,” according to a representative from Golf Channel. Other than that, they “are working to determine (their) programming plans for the next several weeks.”

For this week, their plan is to air the 2018 Valspar Championship during their scheduled Valspar Championship coverage.

3. What will replace golf telecasts on NBC and CBS?

Considering NBC hasn’t updated their programming schedule online, it’s tough to say. It could be reruns of old golf telecasts (one can hope) — last weekend they replayed the 2019 Players Championship — or they could fill the void with any of their other original content outside the golf sphere.

The only CBS golf coverage affected by the planned shortage is the Masters in early April. It remains to be seen what their plan is to fill this window. After that, there has been no word on how the golf calendar will shape up. Expect more news as the situation progresses.

4. What happens to the caddies?

Caddies are in a difficult spot. Players can absorb the financial hit of a suspension of play midseason, but caddies are not so fortunate. The big-name caddies should be fine, but for lots of loopers out there, tough times are ahead.

The optimistic view is that players will take care of their loopers in these trying times, but there hasn’t been anything officially reported as of yet.

The more afflicted group will be caddies on the development tours. These guys already live paycheck to paycheck, sharing musty motel rooms each week in hopes of catching on a bag headed to the PGA Tour. Now they’ll be out of work for an undetermined amount of time.

“There’s so much uncertainty,” said Nathan Weston, who has caddied on the Korn Ferry Tour for the past several years. “That’s the hardest part.”

Because of this uncertainty on the timeline of the stoppage, it’s made decisions for suddenly under employed caddies difficult. Do they find part-time work in the interim? Do they wait it out? The unknowns are throwing an extra layer of difficulty into the process.

The economic impact of this crisis will be felt by everyone, but some will take the brunt of it more than others.

5. Can PGA Tour pros play on mini tours to stay sharp?

There’s nothing that says these guys can’t play on mini tours during the stoppage at golf’s highest level. As independent contractors, they aren’t beholden to limiting their play to the PGA Tour (this isn’t the PGL, after all). So far, there are a handful of regional mini tours out there still operating, but it remains to be seen if any players take their talents to the minor leagues during the stoppage.

6. The CDC no-congregating recommendation goes out eight weeks; does that mean those tournaments in that span will be canceled as well?

You’d have to expect that Tour events will be canceled during that window, but after their slow response to canceling the Players Championship, it’s tough to say. It really all depends on how swiftly the pandemic sweeps the nation.

If there are some positive strides made throughout the rest of the month, maybe pro golf is reintroduced with a no-fans policy after the Masters as we ease back into normalcy. Or maybe the situation worsens and we see a shrinking golf calendar. The PGA Championship falls at the tail end of that eight-week window recommendation, so there is a serious possibility of the second major of the year not happening as scheduled as well.

The situation is fluid, and updates are coming in by the hour. When you consider where we were a week ago, prepping for business as usual at the Players, eight weeks feels like a lifetime. Time will tell.

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