Shrink the Euro Tour golf bubble now
European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley will be monitoring what's happening on the PGA Tour in advance of the European circuit starting up again after a long, coronavirus delay. The main lesson he can take is he needs to shrink the Euro Tour bubble as much as possible to avoid devastating leaks.
Afraid that means caddies need to go on furlough, flagsticks need to stay in holes, and bunker rakes should be removed.
I can hear caddies screaming right now at this suggestion, and some players saying no way to putting with the flagstick in the hole. Canada's Adam Hadwin said he'd consider not playing if he had to putt with the flag in the hole, while Scott Stallings said he'd also reconsider playing if caddies were not allowed and bunkers did not have rakes. The things some players won't do for multi-million dollar purses.....
Given what's happened on the PGA Tour, it makes sense to reduce the number of personnel at tournaments as much as possible. Brooks Koepka and Graeme McDowell had to withdraw from this week's Travelers Championship after caddies Ricky Elliott and Ken Comboy tested positive for Covid-19. So far seven PGA Tour players have had to pull out of PGA tournaments as a result of the virus.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has just banned caddies from practice putting greens in the wake of Denny McCarthy testing positive for Covid-19. Monahan has read the riot act, imploring players and caddies to follow strict protocols or face hefty fines. Monahan should have gone further: he should have shut the circuit down. Failing that, he could have shrunk the bubble considerably if he'd just said caddies had to take a break for the time being.
Pelley should do just that. He should put the tour bagmen on indefinite leave until things get better. I have no doubt the European Tour will make sure it has the strictest protocols in place, but the PGA Tour said the same thing and look what's happened there. It only takes one, and it's not rocket science to realise that if you shrink the bubble by 156 people then the chances of infection are also reduced.
There is an obvious caveat: caddies should still be paid. The tour should mandate that whatever a player earns per tournament, the same percentage the caddie would have earned is still paid. That's only fair.
Players can easily carry their own golf bags: they’re all young and fit. If not, then they can use electric carts only they can touch. Range finders could be allowed to compensate for not having a caddie. Although players are quite capable of doing their own yardages, range finders would probably speed up play.
Flags should remain in holes at all times for obvious reasons.
As for removing bunker rakes, each player should be given a portable bunker rake for the time being only they can touch. Hey, it works at some clubs. (In fact, I wish it worked at mine.) Besides, these guys surely know how to rake a bunker.
The tour should also prohibit swing coaches, fitness trainers, sports psychologists, equipment reps, journalists and player managers. Fewer people inside the bubble gives it a better chance of remaining airtight.
Someone seems to have taken a pin to the PGA Tour’s so called “bubble.” It looks more like a dripping shower head. The European Tour needs to take note and learn. It needs to shrink its bubble as much as possible, no matter how strong the protocols.