Brooks Koepka will try to become the first player to win the PGA Championship three straight times in stroke play, and there won’t be anyone at Harding Park to cheer him on.
The PGA of America confirmed Monday the first major of this most unusual year won’t have spectators.
The PGA Championship, originally scheduled for May 14-17 in San Francisco, now is set for Aug. 6-9 and will be the first of three majors this year. The U.S. Open moved from June to Sept. 17-20 in New York, with the Masters moving to November two weeks before Thanksgiving. The British Open was canceled.
Still to be determined is whether the other two majors have fans. The PGA Tour resumed its schedule following its coronavirus-caused shutdown two weeks ago without fans, and it is not planning to have them until a reduced number July 16-19 at Memorial.
The PGA of America submitted its plan to not have spectators a week ago, and the San Francisco Chronicle said government and health officials approved it.
Mayor London N. Breed said the city was “thrilled” to welcome the century-old major to San Francisco. PGA of America officials were prepared to go elsewhere if playing in San Francisco would not allow health standards to be met.
“We are able to safely take this step toward reopening because of the ongoing sacrifices of our citizens,” Breed said.
Those sacrifices now include watching only on TV for those who had planned to attend. This is the first major for Harding Park, the public course across the street from Olympic Club and now part of the TPC network. It previously held two World Golf Championships (won by Tiger Woods in 2005 and Rory McIlroy in 2015) and the Presidents Cup in 2009.
“While the local community cannot be with us physically on site, we will certainly carry their spirit of resilience and unity with us as we stage our major championship, on their behalf, for all the world to see and enjoy,” said Seth Waugh, the CEO of the PGA of America.
Koepka won in 2018 at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, and he joined Woods as the only back-to-back champions in stroke play when he won last year at Bethpage Black on Long Island.
Woods tied for 29th, 14 shots behind, when he was going for a third straight PGA Championship title in 2001 in Atlanta. He did not have a chance at three in a row in 2008 because he had knee surgery and missed the last two majors.
Walter Hagen won four straight times from 1924-27 when the PGA Championship format was match play.
“We’ve got to do what we got to do to make us safe, keep the fans safe,” Koepka said last week about a major with no fans. “Obviously, you’d like to have fans, but I understand with what’s going on it might not be possible.”
Meanwhile, the PGA of America is contacting those who bought tickets in advance to set up refunds. It said it will not process refunds for tickets bought from a secondary market platform.
The PGA Championship next year goes to Kiawah Island in South Carolina.