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Monday Scramble: The show goes on as PGA Tour enters Week 4 of restart

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The PGA Tour safety plan comes under scrutiny, Dustin Johnson gets back in the winner's circle, Daniel Summerhays nearly authors a story for the ages, Will Gordon nails his audition and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

 


 

1. Seven players, including two of the top five players in the world, withdrew from the Travelers Championship for COVID-19-related reasons.

TAKEAWAY: After a relatively quiet few weeks, the Tour navigated its first PR crisis of the restart. Commissioner Jay Monahan flew to Hartford for an emergency news conference, and even though only three players (Cameron Champ, Denny McCarthy and, later, during the pre-charter screening, Dylan Frittelli) and two caddies tested positive during the week, the total number of WDs was a headline-grabber and led to some golf fans calling for another shutdown.

Neither last month nor last week would the Tour commit to a specific number of withdrawals before it paused the season again. But it’s clear in Monahan’s remarks that the Tour hasn’t approached anything near a tipping point. (Read more of my thoughts here.)

Until players begin to drop out of events because they feel unsafe, the show will go on – even with the challenging optics of playing golf amid a raging epidemic.

 



2. Dustin Johnson steadied himself during a roller-coaster back nine to win the Travelers Championship by one shot over Kevin Streelman. It was the 21st Tour title of his career. 

TAKEAWAY: Largely forgotten over the past year because of injury and indifferent play, DJ reemerged just in time for a packed summer schedule. Though far from at his peak, he still possesses as much firepower as anyone on Tour and got away with a few squirrelly shots over the closing stretch to win in his 13th consecutive season.

In the final round he was typically resilient, overcoming an out-of-bounds tee shot on 13, a near water ball on 15 and then an hour stoppage because of weather, but for once it was DJ's putter that carried him to a win; he finished the week fourth in strokes gained: putting.

Whether it was one hot week or the beginning of a stretch of sustained success remains to be seen, because on the practice putting green last week he was spotted with six different putters, and this was his third model in as many weeks.

His putter is the key to unlocking his best stuff again, but the Travelers was a much-needed reminder: Golf is better when an-form DJ is wreaking havoc.

 



3. The Tour announced that it was tightening some of its security protocols in advance of this week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic.

TAKEAWAY: As expected, the Tour’s initial 37-page Health and Safety Plan has continued to be tweaked over the past few weeks.

And that’s a good thing!

Try as they might, the Tour brass couldn’t have foreseen all of the issues that would crop up during a tournament week. So they’ve adjusted as necessary. They’ve added another layer of testing for those who fly on the charter. They’ve suspended the $100,000 stipend program for those who violate protocols. They’ve moved the fitness trailer on-site to eliminate the need to use a local gym.

And now, starting this week, another change: No person inside the “bubble” – players, caddies, essential personnel, etc. – will be allowed at a tournament venue until they receive a negative test result. Previously, they could use the practice facility but not access any indoor building.

As said repeatedly in this space, the Tour does not have a traditional “bubble,” at least not the hermetically sealed model that is designed for the NBA’s return plan, with everyone quarantined in one area for months at a time. But three weeks in, with no major outbreaks in three different parts of the country, the program is a success story that is still getting stronger.

The past week should have served as a wake-up call to all involved.

Want golf to continue? Follow the rules that are in place.

 



4. Brendon Todd, the 54-hole leader, faded with a 75 on the final day to plummet into a tie for 11th at the Travelers.

TAKEAWAY: No one was more accurate off the tee than Todd (51 of 56) last week, but one catastrophic miss with a short iron undid his bid for a Tour-leading third victory this season.

With only 148 yards to the flag on the 12th hole, Todd’s shot came up short of the green, in some long grass above the bunker. With the ball well below his feet, it was a tricky stance, but ... the next five minutes were difficult to watch.

 

 
PGA TOUR
 
?@PGATOUR
 

Golf is hard. Winning is really hard.

Triple bogey for Brendon Todd.

The overnight leader now trails by 5 shots.

 
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