GREENSBORO — The show will go on.
The Wyndham Championship in August at Sedgefield Country Club, one of the oldest PGA Tour stops on the schedule, will look different in terms of its operation thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that’s OK.
“Bottom line is, we will be playing,” tournament director Mark Brazil said Friday. “In terms of what it will all look like with having fans and how many fans we can allow is something to be determined.”
Brazil will keep a close eye on the PGA Tour as it resumes its season Thursday at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas. The tournament and three to follow will be played with no spectators.
Spectators, in likely a limited total, will be allowed for The Memorial at Murifield Village in Dublin, Ohio, in July.
The Wyndham Championship is scheduled for Aug. 13-16, and Brazil is hoping spectators will be allowed. Just how many will be up to Gov. Roy Cooper’s guidelines as the state continues its slow reopening. Sedgefield Country Club is spread across 130 acres, and Brazil says there’s enough space to allow everybody to feel safe.
“We have to be smart and wear masks and not gather in large groups around the golf course,” Brazil said during a news conference to promote next week’s American Junior Golf Association tournament at Sedgefield. “We can do this, and if there’s ever a sport that can pull this off, it’s golf.”
In a normal year, Brazil would be on the road with the PGA Tour recruiting golfers for the Wyndham. But this time, he’ll likely only go to Hilton Head, S.C., for the RBC Heritage Classic June 18-21.
Building a strong field is always important, but less so at this point because of the pandemic and what could have happened to the Wyndham Championship.
“To be fully transparent we’d love to get a good field, but that’s absolutely not a huge goal this year because I just want to have this golf tournament,” Brazil said. “We want to be smart and safe and have good social distancing and have as many fans as we can get as long as it’s safe.”
Brazil said he and his staff are working on plans to keep fans separated. That includes parking and shuttles, concessions and sponsor boxes.
The tournament doesn’t keep detailed attendance figures for each tournament, but officials in the past have said a Saturday or Sunday crowd could total 20,000. When asked what the capacity might be in August, Brazil speculated 25 percent.
Brazil said tournament officials would limit the number of tickets sold and distributed. None have gone on sale yet.
“We don’t know the exact date of when we can start selling tickets,” he said.
And what if Tiger Woods, who played in the Wyndham in 2015, commits to play?
Brazil offered a smile, but said: “No, if Tiger comes, that won’t change our plans because we will adhere to whatever our state guidelines are to keep everybody safe.”
Tee box added to 14th hole
One of the tweaks to the Donald Ross layout for the pros will be a new tee box on hole No. 14, which is a par-4 that measures 495 yards. The new tee box that was added just off the 13th green means the hole could play 530 yards, remaining a par-4.
John McConnell, the Sedgefield owner, purchased property to allow it.
“It’s going to be a test of golf,” Brazil said. “When it was 495 they were hitting it over the hill and getting a huge bounce, so that will soften that a little bit. Instead of hitting a 9-iron into it they will likely have to hit a 7-iron, so we like that change.”
New short game area shaping up
Another change that should be well-received by pros is a new practice area near the front entrance of the main gate.
The area will allow more space for golfers to work on their short games.
“We go from having one of the smaller short-game areas on Tour to having one of the better ones,” Brazil said. “This is a tournament initiative to make it better, and the short game area now just makes it better for the players.
“Before you could have about six guys working on their short games but this new area will allow anywhere from 30 to 35 guys who can practice.”