Star Billing for World’s Top Three… Including Jon Rahm

Jon Rahm playing at Royal Valderrama in 2019
Jon Rahm at the 2019 Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters (Photo: RC Valderrama)

Spanish star Jon Rahm will be in the marquee group on Thursday when the US PGA Tour resumes officially for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak halted golf around the world three months ago.

The three leading players in the world ranking (which was frozen when the main global tours went into hibernation) will be the main featured group in the first tournament back, the Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial in Fort Worth, starting on Thursday (11 June) – albeit without fans allowed on the course.

Rory McIlroy (1), Jon Rahn (2) and Brooks Koepka (3) also played together in the first round of the 2020 Players Championship, after which the event was cancelled and the subsequent Tour schedule put on hold.

The omens are good for 25-year-old Rahm, if he can recapture that day’s form: he carded 69, while Koepka had a 70 and McIlroy a 72.

Apart from McIlroy, Rahm and Koepka, other star groups will be Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose, and Phil Mickelson, Gary Woodland and defending champion Kevin Na.

The overall strength of the field is highlighted by the fact that, in total, 101 of the 148 players have won on Tour.

In all, 15 of the world’s top 20 ranked golfers will be teeing up in Texas. Among those missing are Adam Scott (6), Tommy Fleetwood (10) and Tiger Woods (11). Scott has expressed his concerns with the tour’s COVID-19 testing protocol, and is not expected to return to competition for two months, in the lead-up to the newly-scheduled majors. UK-based Fleetwood explained in May that the quarantine times for international visitors would also most likely keep him away from the US for an extended period.

“It isn’t impossible for me to play,” Fleetwood told Golf Digest. “Far from it. But two weeks of quarantine at both ends of a trip across the Atlantic is a huge issue. That factor really made my decision for me. To go over and play in the three events scheduled for June would eat up seven weeks of my life. That’s more than double what a trip like that would normally take. I wouldn’t want to be away from my wife and kids for that long.”

Woods, meanwhile, has only played once professionally at the Colonial, finishing joint fourth in the 1997 event. 

Rescheduled Majors

The US PGA Championship, at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, has been moved from May to 6-9 August; the US Open until after the official 2019-2020 season concludes, from June to September 17 to 20 at Winged Foot in New York; and the US Masters at Augusta, normally in April, to an unprecedented late-autumn date, 12-15 November.

The Tokyo Olympics (now including a golf competition, re-introduced in 2016) have been postponed until 2021; and a decision is still pending on the Ryder Cup, due to be held at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin from 25 to 27 September. 

European Tour Update

The European Tour plans to resume its 2020 season with the launch of a new six-week “UK Swing”. Suspended on 8 March due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the Tour is scheduled to return to action in July and continue to December. 

All tournaments will initially be played behind closed doors, and all will be “subject to stringent safety and testing protocols set out in the Tour’s comprehensive Health Strategy, which will continue to evolve, aligned with international government guidance and health guidelines”.

The “UK Swing” begins with the Betfred British Masters hosted by Lee Westwood, at Close House, near Newcastle, from Wednesday 22 July to Saturday 25 July, followed by the English Open (Marriott Forest of Arden), English Championship (Marriott Hanbury Manor), Celtic Classic and Wales Open (both at The Celtic Manor Resort in Newport) and finally the UK Championship (The Belfry).

The Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation, due to be held from 29 April to 3 May at Royal Valderrama, has not been rescheduled in 2020.

Resumption of Women’s Tours 

Both the US LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour were also forced to cancel tournaments from March to June.

The LPGA is scheduled to resume on 23 July with the Marathon Classic in Ohio; while the LET is due to return to action with the Ladies Scottish Open from 13 to 16 August. This follows the announcement this week that the Evian Championship – one of five women’s majors, and due to be played from 6 August at the Evian Resort Golf Club in France – has been postponed until next year.

In Spain, the La Reserva de Sotogrande Invitational (scheduled to be played in May) and the Mediterranean Ladies Open (Terramar Golf Club in July) have been “postponed”, but the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open (at a club to be confirmed) is still scheduled for 6 to 9 November.