Jun 25, 2020 - Sports

Golfers may be focusing better due to a lack of fans

The 18th green during a practice round for the Travelers Championship on Wednesday
The 18th green during a practice round for the Travelers Championship on Wednesday. Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Despite multiple positive coronavirus tests and the withdrawal of two top-five players — Brooks Koepka (caddie tested positive) and Webb Simpson (family member tested positive) — the show will go on today at the Travelers Championship.

The intrigue: In the two weeks since the PGA Tour returned, players have recorded notably low scores, suggesting the fanless environment could be helping them focus.

  • RBC Heritage (last week): Simpson set a new tournament scoring record at 22-under, and three more players finished 20-under or better.
  • Charles Schwab Challenge (two weeks ago): 15 players shot 65 or lower during Round 1, the most such scores during any round at Colonial Country Club — a history that dates back to 1941.

The state of play:

  • Course: TPC River Highlands
  • Location: Cromwell, Connecticut

What they're saying: Jordan Spieth believes it's easier to win without fans, particularly for players not used to contending and facing pressure-packed greens on Saturday and Sunday.

"In general, it's easier to win on the PGA Tour without fans is what I've seen the first couple weeks. It's easier to just be zoned in on pure golf."
— Spieth

The other side: While ESPN senior golf writer Bob Harig agrees with Spieth that the lack of fans could help less experienced players down the stretch, he isn't convinced it's a boon overall.

  • "A guy like Tiger feeds off [the crowd's energy], and it can be really tough to play against him," he told me. "Same for Phil. I bet Jordan benefits from it too."
  • As for the low scoring these past two weeks, Harig suggests it was more about venue and conditions.

The bottom line: Whether the lack of fans has led to lower scores or not, golf has clearly been less impacted by the fanless environment — and the lengthy shutdown — than virtually any other sport.

Looking ahead: Under the current plan, the PGA Tour will play its first five events without fans before welcoming spectators for the Memorial Tournament, scheduled for July 16–19 in Dublin, Ohio.

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