The PGA Tour will play next month in Minnesota, with major championship winners Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson expected, but without spectators admitted.
The 3M Open arrives at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine for a second year, and tournament organizers revised a 29-page proposal submitted to state officials nearly a month ago that would have allowed a limited number of fans — 6,000 maximum.
They’ll proceed instead with one that requires only about 1,200 workers — players, caddies, officials, staff, television crews, media, volunteers — needed to stage it as a made-for-TV event spread over 250 physical-distancing acres. It will be telecast by Golf Channel and CBS July 23-26 in a 2020 Tour schedule completely remade because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re very disappointed we’re not allowed to have fans,” 3M Open executive director Hollis Cavner said. “On the other hand, we have to be safe and the Governor’s office felt it wouldn’t be prudent with galleries.”
Fans who bought tickets starting last winter can get a refund, donate the money to the tournament’s designated charities or apply it to next year’s fee.
Pro-am days that fund tournament operations and the charities it benefits will be held Monday and Wednesday during tournament week. This year, those charities will include ones pandemic related or help rebuild parts of Minneapolis and St. Paul after social unrest following the death of George Floyd shook both cities.
Cavner said the tour came “very close” to moving the tournament that week to the Floridian Golf Club near many PGA Tour players’ Atlantic coast homes, but he credited the title sponsor for keeping it at home.
“This is about 3M wanting to do something really great for Minnesota,” Cavner said. “It’s still going to be a great TV show, shown worldwide. It’s still a chance to showcase Minnesota in a great way … A lot of effort has been put into this.”
Cavner and his Pro Links Sports company’s staff chose their path forward after they conferred with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s office and state health officials as well as tour officials and 3M’s board. They did so after they considered canceling as did the John Deere Classic in Illinois scheduled two weeks before the 3M Open.
“This very well could be the only live [pro sports] event in Minnesota this summer,” 3M Open tournament director Mike Welch said.
The John Deere is now the Workday Charity Open that will be played July 6-12 on the same Muirfield Village course the week before the Memorial Tournament in Ohio.
The PGA Tour returned to action last week in Fort Worth, Texas, after it suspended its season March 13. It did so without spectators at historic Colonial Country Club and the Charles Schwab Challenge won by Daniel Berger in a playoff. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan called it a “phenomenal start to our return.”
The tour resumed after NASCAR returned to racing with limited spectators, but before Major League Soccer, the WNBA and NBA, the NHL and Major League Baseball get back to play starting next month or beyond without fans and likely at neutral sites outside Minnesota.
The PGA Tour will pay for rapid viral testing for players, caddies and many others on site. Everyone entering the grounds must answer a health questionnaire and have their temperatures measured. If current guidelines continue, food and beverage workers and possibly others will be required to wear face masks.
Tournament officials will monitor the latest coronavirus statistics and they will adjust their safety policies if there’s an increase in cases in Minnesota, Welch said.
Cavner said he doesn’t foresee circumstances where the 3M Open still could be canceled. “There’d have to be something very drastic happen not to host the event now,” Cavner said.
Welch also said the Governor’s office and state health officials provided guidance on all precautions intended to keep everyone on site safe.
The 3M Open is set to be the sixth tour event played since last week’s return in Texas. The only one of those expected to welcome some fans is the Memorial Tournament in Ohio. The 3M Open will be played the week after the Memorial Tournament, one week before a World Golf Championship in Memphis and two weeks before the PGA Championship in San Francisco.
Television towers still will be erected across TPC’s back nine, but none of the vast corporate boxes that surround the finishing 17th and 18th hole will be needed as in years past.
Both ranked in the world’s Top 5, Koepka and Johnson are expected to highlight a field Cavner said will “take a hit” like so many other tour events in this rescheduled season.
“Everybody is going to suffer some with their fields,” he said. “This is such a unique situation. I hope this is something we never have to deal with in our lives again. We feel good about our field.”
Cavner said he expects “several more” Top 10 players as well as other ranked players who’ll decide to play in search of FedEx Cup points and sponsors’ bonuses. They’ll do without spectators, as a strong field did last week in the PGA Tour’s return.
Tour players Zander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth called that return without fans “weird” while Monahan deemed it “different.”
Playoff runner-up Collin Morikawa chose “crazy different” and compared it to college golf he played just a year ago at Cal.
“Fans bring so much energy, so much more excitement,” Morikawa told reporters afterward. “That’s why we love it. Hopefully, they loved it on TV. Obviously, we’re going to miss them for the first few events.”