It's official: No fans at Rocket Mortgage Classic as PGA Tour sets out plans for restart

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

It’s official – there will be no fans this summer at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Last month, when the PGA Tour announced its revised schedule in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the second-year event was pushed from its original slot on the schedule at the end of May to July 2-5 and there was a slight glimmer of hope at least a limited number of fans would be allowed on site at the Detroit Golf Club.

Winner Nate Lashley lines up a putt on the 18th hole during the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

However, on Wednesday during a media presentation designed to lay out its return to competition, Tour officials confirmed the Rocket Mortgage Classic will played with only essential personnel allowed.

“There will not be spectators at the Rocket Mortgage Classic,” said Andy Pazder, executive vice president and chief of operations for the PGA Tour.

In mid-April, the Tour announced it would return to action June 8-14 at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas. That tournament will be followed by the RBC Heritage June 15-21 in Hilton Head, S.C., the Travelers Championship June 22-28 in Cromwell, Conn., and the Rocket Mortgage Classic July 2-5. The John Deere Classic July 6-12 in Silvis, Ill., is planning to allow spectators, but that can change.

More: Memorial Tournament will place chips in fans' badges to monitor spacing

“We considered that all along to be a placeholder and not some sort of line on the calendar that we were pushing for July 6-12 as a point in time to allow some number of fans,” Pazder said. “We are not wedded to any specific date. Obviously it’s going to be dependent on local, state, and federal regulations that will largely dictate when we’re able to resume having some number of fans. I would absolutely anticipate whenever that occurs it would initially be on a limited basis to ease ourselves back into spectators being on site.

“We obviously hope there will be a point in time in the summer where we are able to welcome back our fans on site. But as we’ve said from the very top of this call and every other call we’ve done, we’re only going to return to golf when we can do it in the safe and responsible manner. And it’s certainly not going to be so we can hit some target date that isn’t supported by the local, state and federal authorities.”

Rocket Mortgage Classic tournament officials didn’t comment on the official word that no fans would be in attendance but have been working since the revised schedule was announced as if there would be no fans.

“The decision to move forward has been an intense and emotional discussion among the key stakeholders who have provided input along the way," Jason Langwell, executive director of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, said in April. "In cooperation with the PGA Tour and our broadcast partners and Detroit Golf Club, we are turning this tournament on its head. As this is a TV-only event with no spectators, we are examining new fundraising capabilities that have yet to be seen on the Tour.

"I, for one, am anticipating great things from the Rocket Mortgage Classic and the impact it will have on the city and its residents.”

The presentation Wednesday from the PGA Tour was an effort to highlight how it would conduct tournaments in the near term as it returns to action for the first time since mid-March when The Players Championship was halted after one round.

The thrust of the plan follows a layered approach that includes a questionnaire for players, caddies and other officials, along with temperature testing and nasal swabs. The Tour hopes to screen all players and caddies at a central site when they arrive in a city, most likely a host hotel. Once the tournament begins, daily questionnaires and temperature screenings will be applied.

If a player has a thermal test exceeding a temperature of 100.4 degrees on any day, he would be required to take a coronavirus test. Results are expected in 24-48 hours and those who are awaiting results can still practice and play but will not have access to other onsite facilities. Anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus will have to immediately quarantine and will be unable to compete in the tournament.

Spectators walk near the PGA Tour Fan Shop during the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic.

The Tour is also limiting those who can attend as players' families will not be permitted at the course, and golfers will have limited support personnel available. A trainer or a swing coach can accompany a player but will be subject to the testing protocols. The Tour also is pushing “stay at home” practices outside of the venue and likely will have one or two designated hotels in each city.

During play, the Tour is allowing caddies to handle flagsticks and bunker rakes but is requiring them to wipe them down afterward. It is asking caddies to socially distance from those in the group as much as possible and asking players to pull and return golf clubs to their bags.

The Tour will also provide a chartered flight from each tournament site to the next, but those flights will require players and caddies to submit to viral testing within 24 hours of departure. There will also be a limited number of media at events with work spaces spread out to provide social distancing.

The Rocket Mortgage Classic is coming off an impressive first-year showing in 2019 and has already landed commitments from Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson. Tournament officials believe that now that players understand the environment they will be playing, most will start planning their schedules and more commitments will be coming soon.

In addition to the Rocket Mortgage Classic, professional golf in Michigan has been affected significantly by the COVID-19 outbreak. The Senior PGA Championship in Benton Harbor scheduled for this month was cancelled and the LGPA’s Meijer Classic held outside of Grand Rapids has been pushed to Oct. 1-4.

The LPGA’s Great Lakes Bay Invitational July 15-18 in Midland will serve as that tour’s return to action while the PGA Tour Champions will resume play July 31-Aug. 2 at the Ally Challenge in Grand Blanc.

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

Michigan tournaments

PGA Tour: July 2-5, Rocket Mortgage Classic, Detroit Golf Club (originally May 28-31)

LPGA: July 15-18, Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, Midland Country Club

LPGA: Oct. 1-4, Meijer LPGA Classic, Blythefield Country Club, Belmont (originally June 11-14)

Champions: July 31-Aug. 2, Ally Challenge, Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club, Grand Blanc