McIlroy comfortable with return of fans, Mickelson concerned

While McIlroy views the return of spectators on the golf course with cautious optimism, Phil Mickelson expressed deep concern.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy. - AP

Rory McIlroy has missed the fans. Hours after Australian Adam Scott was forced to withdraw from the Zozo Championship because of a positive COVID-19 test on Wednesday, he said he was ready to see them back out on the course.

The Northern Irishman will not see any spectators at this week's Zozo Championship being played at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California, but the next two events on the PGA Tour schedule - the Bermuda Championship and Houston Open - both plan to allow a limited number of fans.

While McIlroy views the return of spectators with cautious optimism, Phil Mickelson expressed deep concern, saying the presence of fans in Houston might keep him from playing what has traditionally been his Masters warm-up event.

ALSO READ | Hero World Challenge cancelled

“I think I’m more comfortable with it now than I was, say, back when we were going to play the Memorial in July with fans,” said McIlroy. “I think everyone was still a little skeptical about that.

“But I think right now we just know a little more about COVID and what it does, maybe not long-term wise but at least in the short term, what it maybe does to the body and what the symptoms are and treatment protocols and therapeutics.”

Low risk

With most of the players on the PGA Tour being fit, healthy athletes, McIlroy noted they were in the low-risk category.

But the new father was also mindful of the need to take into account others outside the demographic and communities in which they play.

Phil Mickelson has suggested he may miss Houston Open. - AP

Several golfers have tested positive - including World No. 1 Dustin Johnson who continues to self-isolate and will miss the Zozo after an earlier positive test - but have not suffered serious illness.

“It's hard because the demographic that is a Tour player and the people that are out on site, if they get COVID, more than likely nothing is going to happen,” said McIlroy. “They might get symptoms for a couple of days but they'll bounce back and they'll be fine.”

Since the PGA Tour restarted in mid-June following a COVID-forced shutdown, officials have made several attempts to bring back fans but each time they aborted efforts over health and safety concerns.

ALSO READ | Shubhankar Sharma settles for T-37 at Scottish C'ship

With the United States again seeing a spike in cases Mickelson, who turned 50 in June, said playing in front of spectators presented an unnecessary risk with the rescheduled Masters set from November 12-15.

“I think that they will do a very good, safe job in having 2,000 people at the Houston Open,” said Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion. “However, for me personally, I don't like the risk of having that happen the week before the Masters.

“So it has made me question whether or not I'll play there.”

U.S. Women's Open to be held without fans

The U.S. Women's Open will be held without fans this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the United States Golf Association (USGA) said on Wednesday.

The tournament, which is in its 75th year and is the oldest of the five women's golf majors, was previously rescheduled from June to December 10-13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be held at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas.

“Following extensive consultation with health officials, we have decided that hosting the U.S. Womens Open without spectators will provide the best opportunity to conduct the championship safely for all involved,” said USGA Senior Managing Director John Bodenhamer.

The PGA Tour said it will allow a limited number of fans to attend next month's Houston Open, a move which concerned Phil Mickelson as the five-time major winner said he was questioning whether to compete in the event.