18 May 2020: The experiment went very well. Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff may not have found their best game on Sunday at Seminole, but in raising as much as 5.5mn for charity, they played great ambassadors for the game. As we inch closer to a potential return to action at the Colonial in the second week of June, questions remain about the manner of its playing in the Post COVID19 days.
First things first, Sunday went without a hitch. The golfers carried their bags, redesigned for the golfers to lug them on their shoulders like children going to school. They wore shorts too, kind of adding to that schoolboy vibe. And over 18 holes the additional weight did not seem to strain their backs.
But caddies are an integral part of the golfing experience and for me, I missed them more than I missed the spectators. They are the ones looking out for the sprinklers to get across the yardages, helping the golfer find just the club needed to sail for the green. The caddie is also cleaning up after the mess constantly – raking the sand, wiping the ball and cleaning the grooves. And yes, the conversation as they walk together from one hole to the next with the burden of the bag resting on their able shoulders.
It felt odd on Sunday to see the golfers play by themselves. I am not sure if the PGA TOUR has already made some decisions or are still considering options for the return at Colonial. Health is paramount and the risks associated with any potential COVID19 contamination are a serious issue. But amidst the reconfigurations that are underway in order to restart professional golf, I am hopeful that the resumption can include the caddies.
Obviously, there are challenges. How does the TOUR ensure that the entire entourage of players, officials, club personnel, broadcast crews and the inevitable collection of hangers on that will seep in despite the bid to keep it spectator free. But the closest and the most visible risk emerges from golfer – caddie interaction. They are constantly touching the same objects and surfaces. The exchange of notes, ball and clubs present a risk that the TOUR needs to consider carefully to devise a meaningful set of instructions that enable this vital interaction for golf.
I cannot wait for Colonial. But more importantly I cannot wait to see how the world of golf addresses the challenging problem of golfer-caddie interactions in the Post COVID19 days.