Why Aussie majors could be missing big names
AN early December date is being cautiously sized up for the Australian PGA at Royal Queensland but it is a mystery how border restrictions might affect the ability to lure golf stars from overseas.
Being forced to stage the PGA and the Australian Open at Melbourne's Kingston Heath without galleries is also a possibility depending on how coronavirus precautions look in seven months.
While the NRL and AFL can grudgingly accept playing without crowds because they have huge multi-million TV deals to nourish their codes, the financial viability of these peak golf tournaments relies on the 30-40,000-plus fans expected to travel and come through the gates.
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For now, the rest of the golfing world is in disjointed orbit around the November 12-15 slot taken by Augusta National for the rescheduled Masters.
Australia's two big events will fall at least a fortnight after that but it is a matter of what they clash with, not if, because the PGA Tour and European Tour have rescheduled events or plan to.
"There are so many unknowns, we have about five scenarios we are working with," PGA of Australia chief executive Gavin Kirkman said.
"We still don't know what the rules are going to be for golfers flying in from overseas countries, whether it could be lockdown without practice for two weeks, self-isolation or a relaxation of restrictions.
"We are in regular talks with the European Tour (as co-sanctioning partner) and communication couldn't be better about finding the best date for the PGA."
Kirkman said he expected to have dates nailed down in a few weeks.
Potential border restrictions wouldn't just affect the likes of former major winners Sergio Garcia (Spain) and Stewart Cink (US), who were hand-picked to add lustre to the Open and PGA fields last December.
If the current quarantine restrictions were prolonged, US-based Aussies Cameron Smith, Australian Open champion Matt Jones and Marc Leishman would have to go into two weeks of isolation after flying home before being able to even play a tournament in their home country.
That's unrealistic just as it is to imagine players like Smith and PGA champion Adam Scott, who have homes in Queensland, finding a wacky 100-1 shot way to factor isolation with their families into a pre-event "holiday".
Golfers are independent contractors, not teams directed by the NRL, and the appeal for an American star to travel anywhere outside the US in 2020 just may not be there.
Club golfers can't even get on course to play in Victoria.
Brookwater, Queensland's top-ranked course, is taking bookings from the public while other top Queensland clubs like RQ, Brisbane, Indooroopilly and Keperra have members-only time sheets running.