Five key points on European Tour golf ahead of its July return
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London (AFP) –
Golf's European Tour is set to resume in late July after a four-month coronavirus shutdown with a run of six tournaments in as many weeks across Britain.
However, events will be played without spectators and subject to strict safety and testing protocols over the course of a modified season that will run until December.
AFP Sport looks at what to expect with competition due to restart on July 22:
Strict on-site testing
Players will be tested for the virus as soon as they arrive at tournaments, starting with the British Masters in northeast England. Venues will be fully equipped -- with thermal imaging technology and PCR tests -- to handle all medical duties on-site.
Golf's inherent ability to allow for social distancing is also an area officials are hoping to capitalise on while other sports are forced to overcome additional barriers.
The European Tour is spending in excess of £2 million ($2.47 million) to implement these new-look safety measures, which extend to caddies, staff members and TV personnel, who will also need to undergo medical checks before receiving clearance for the event.
All events are reliant on the lifting of the two-week quarantine by the British government relating to those travelling from outside the country.
To compensate for the lack of spectators, players will be encouraged to wear microphones while competing to give TV viewers rare insight live from the course.
"COVID-19 allows you permission to try things a little bit differently," European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley told the BBC. "I think you have to be as creative as you possibly can when you are playing behind closed doors.
"It really comes down to how open you are, how creative you are and how your players want to embrace change. This is the time for us to do some things completely differently."
Reduced prize money
The six tournaments in the UK swing are each expected to offer a purse of around one million euros ($1.11 million) -- a third of the prize money at last year's British Masters.
With revenue sharply hit by the pandemic, the money on offer to players will be scaled back after reaching record highs in 2018 and 2019.
"Given what we are facing, it's no surprise that our prize fund levels will fall a little bit given the global crisis that is affecting the world," said Pelley, who denied the European Tour was facing bankruptcy.
Full schedule to follow
Tour organisers have tentatively drawn up a 24-tournament schedule for the remainder of the season, with events in Ireland, Italy, Spain and Portugal still to be confirmed.
Four Rolex Series events have also been announced, with the Scottish Open and PGA Championship in back-to-back weeks in October, while the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa and the World Tour Championship in Dubai will take place in December.
"We have not released our entire 2020 schedule at this point, with a number of familiar and iconic events not part of this announcement," Pelley said on Thursday. "Rest assured they are all still very much part of our plans, but we have a variety of options open to us right now, and we will announce those shortly."
The events are expected to feature fields of 144 players.
Players eager to return
Thursday's announcement that the tour will resume this summer was greeted with enthusiasm and gratitude from a number of players.
"So looking forward to getting back out playing. More important, can't wait to see my fellow pros, our caddies and staff again. Amazing job by everyone at @EuropeanTour and especially our chief Keith Pelley...." tweeted Thomas Bjorn, captain of Europe's Ryder Cup-winning team in 2018.
"Can't wait. Looking forward to getting the @EuropeanTour started again," wrote former world number one Lee Westwood.
Andrew 'Beef' Johnston added: "Huge well done to the tour. Such a crazy difficult time. Let's all pull along and help each other."
© 2020 AFP