SAN FRANCISCO — For three days of the P.G.A. Championship, golf’s first major of This particular discombobulated sports year, the planet’s best players were introduced at the start of their rounds by a public-address announcer with no public to address.
that will is actually a tradition, a chance to send players out onto the course having a wave of energy in addition to also admiration.
“right now on the tee, please welcome …,” the announcer said for each group at T.P.C. Harding Park. One by one, the biggest names stepped up: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson.
One by one, there was silence, at most a few scattered claps by the tournament volunteers.
When the players returned each day by their 18-hole outings, they found, instead of a warm homecoming in addition to also a green surrounded by fans, no one there, mostly. They were greeted by the same thing they had experienced the entire round: silence.
“I flat-out don’t like that will — plain in addition to also simple,” said Paul Casey, among the leaders heading into the weekend. “Nothing I can do, obviously, although I miss that will. I play golf at home with nobody around, in addition to also I much prefer that will out here. This particular is actually why I love what I get to do, in addition to also that will’s changed the dynamic of that will.”
Come Sunday evening at Harding Park, a champion will be crowned to a quiet reception on a virtually empty course.
If a championship is actually won in a silent bubble, seen only through pixelated screens, does that will count, at least as much?
The P.G.A. Championship is actually the first major American sports event to test that will question. The fan-free experience has been part of This particular summer’s sports schedule for weeks right now, including in golf.
inside weeks ahead, the national landscape will be filled with playoffs in addition to also major championships performed without fans in addition to also in relative silence: the N.B.A. in addition to also N.H.L. playoffs, the United States Open in tennis, the planet Series, certainly the U.S. Open in golf at Winged Foot next month in addition to also, in a few months, maybe even a Super Bowl.
although that will is actually golf where the physical in addition to also visceral connection between athlete in addition to also fan can be as close in addition to also personal as any — up close, face to face, thousands standing in utter silence in addition to also then erupting in noise.
No sport goes by crickets to cacophony like championship golf.
in addition to also that will’s not just a sound effect that will is actually lacking. The absence of fans has altered the competition. Some players, like Casey, complained that will the course’s low energy was affecting their performance. Others noted that will Harding Park’s fierce rough has not been helpfully trampled by the feet of fans. An unlucky few have lost balls that will normally might not have gone missing.
On Friday, on the dogleg par-5 fourth hole, Xinjun Zhang tried to cut the corner with his drive although instead hit his ball closer to the fifth green, which in another year might have been surrounded by fans. The one or two officials nearby never saw that will land; a search turned up nothing. Zhang was penalized a stroke in addition to also went back to the tee to tee off again.
The official scoring recorded his first drive as “288 yards to unknown.” Zhang bogeyed the hole in addition to also was rattled enough to bogey the next two as well, on his way to missing the cut by two strokes.
A day earlier, Justin Thomas had hit a drive into trees along the seventh fairway. No one was nearby, in addition to also after a search of the rough, the ball was presumed to have lodged in a tree. No one was sure.
There were some other oddities. When McIlroy missed the green on the par-3 third hole on Friday, a roving reporter accidentally stepped on his ball, hidden inside long grass, because there were no fans around the green who might have kept that will protected.
The empty atmosphere will be most pronounced in Sunday’s final round. Golf is actually the one sport that will demands silence although truly only becomes interesting when that will gets loud. Sunday at a major is actually an audible experience.
that will is actually Dustin Johnson’s fans at Bethpage Black during last year’s P.G.A. Championship chanting “D.J.!” in addition to also inspiring Koepka to victory. that will is actually the wall of humanity following the last group up the 18th fairway at the British Open.
that will is actually the roar of the Masters, on No. 17 as Nicklaus sinks a putt or Woods chips in, or on 18 as Mickelson rolls in a putt to seal his first major victory.
None of that will will be part of This particular year’s P.G.A. highlight reel.
“If you look at players’ career-defining moments, in majors or some other events, the crowd plays such a huge part in that will,” said Tommy Fleetwood, who is actually looking to win his first major. “You look at the closing shots on the video footage in addition to also there’s massive crowds in addition to also everything. doing sure that will’s different.”
Just getting to Sunday’s big moments has been a strange trip. Instead of galleries, each group is actually witnessed in person by only a few people — a scorekeeper in addition to also maybe a couple of some other officials or volunteers, reporters or camera operators.
that will is actually eerily quiet. There is actually a hum by the generators that will power the few electronic scoreboards in addition to also the television cameras. Trash bags at each tee snap inside breeze. The gallery in “Caddyshack” was bigger than anything Woods or anyone else has seen This particular week.
The only fans are near the No. 12 tee, where curious onlookers along busy Lake Merced Boulevard can peek through the chain-link fence to cheer familiar faces. Everywhere else on the course, the only sounds are the clink of tee shots, the whoosh of irons out of the rough, the clatter of balls striking trees.
Without the white noise of galleries, players are hyper-aware of some other golfers in some other groups.
“If somebody nearby is actually hitting a tee shot or even landing into a green close to you, you can hear that will, you’re so aware,” Jon Rahm said. “that will’s just so loud. Noise travels so far here, in addition to also especially if you’re downwind. Every little thing, you’re going to be able to hear, right, so you just need to be just a little bit extra focused or aware that will somebody is actually hitting a shot.”
The absence of fans has been a visual thing, too. On greens, for example, without a ring of fans to limit the field of vision, movements inside distance — a cart driving or someone walking 50 yards away — can be distracting. At times, caddies shouted to request stillness or quiet to unsuspecting people far away.
There was no reason to tip the cap or give a customary wave after a Great shot or a made putt. Birdies were made without acknowledgment. Eagles were greeted with the chirps of real birds.
“You expect an explosion in addition to also people just going crazy, in addition to also that will just feels a little weird to be the one yelling because no one else is actually,” Rahm said.
that will is actually all disconcerting in addition to also disorienting. All of the usual ways of seeing or sensing what is actually happening are absent, or muted.
“There’s no feedback by anywhere else, so the leader boards are the only thing you have to see how you’re doing in a tournament,” McIlroy said. “There’s even no scoreboard holders, so you don’t even know how the guys in your group are doing.”
There are positives. Moving around the course has been much easier. although players still wish the fans were here.
“I know that will we’re playing the P.G.A. championship,” Jason Day said. “that will’s a major championship. that will’s the first one of the year. that will’s still just not the same.”