Caddie Confidential: Without fans, should golf’s biggest events even be played?

In 2020, only three of the four men’s majors were contested … none with fans in attendance. Should golf’s biggest events be played without fans? Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the fourth installment of our “Caddie Confidential” series, with monthly, inside-the-ropes perspective from dozens of Tour caddies on rotating golf topics. Up this month: insights from caddies about the season’s first major championship — the Masters Tournament.

The year 2020 was a difficult one for everybody as the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world. The PGA Tour season came to an abrupt halt after Day 1 of the Players Championship last March and didn’t resume until 13 weeks later with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in June.

When the Tour did return, it was without fans. As the year progressed, there were certain spots in the country that allowed limited spectators, but those events were few and far between.

Three majors — the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open and the Masters (in that order) — were contested without fans. While we were entertained on our televisions, no fans were there in person to see Collin Morikawa at Harding Park and Bryson DeChambeau at Winged Foot claim their first majors, or Dustin Johnson slip into the green jacket in November for a fall Masters.

There will be limited fans — ahem, “patrons” — at this week’s Masters and that’s a good thing.

But after what we saw in 2020, we surveyed dozens of caddies to find out whether they believed the biggest events in golf should be played at all if fans aren’t on the property.

Overwhelmingly, the caddies told us the show must go on:

  • Yes, the biggest events should be played even without fans: 90.6%
  • No, the biggest events shouldn’t be played without fans: 9.4%

“Golf/sports needs to go forward with or without fans as long as it can do so in a safe manner,” one caddie told us. “This includes majors and regular events on the tour schedule. No other sport would just play regular-season games and not the playoffs just because there are no fans on property. If the event can be played, it shouldn’t matter if it is a ‘major.’ ”

Said another caddie: “At the end of the day, we are a made-for-TV sport. All it takes is actors and supporting actors to fill that content. Hence, the events should go on with or without fans.”

Why or why not do you think the biggest events in golf should be played at all if fans aren’t on property?

Check out this selection of responses from caddies:

People can still watch it on TV.

It’s still a competition with nerves and excitement.

The game must go on! Life must go on! Life is a competition. It totally sucks without fans there, but our country and the world needs something to distract them from all the nonsense going on. Why not watch guys dreams come true either live or on TV?

It’s only temporary and you’ve got to give the people something to watch and the players something to play for.

2020 showed that the big events can be competitive and entertaining for everyone with or without fans.

They were run well in 2020. I don’t see any reason if fans aren’t allowed that you’d limit players opportunities for majors in the future.

To me, it’s not the same feeling/pressure without fans.

We’ve proven it’s possible to keep players, caddies and tournament staff safe while competing in tournaments. At the highest level in the biggest tournaments, players have the opportunity to define their careers with victories. And players shouldn’t miss out on those opportunities when it is possible to hold the tournaments.

People want to watch them on TV regardless.

The biggest events in golf should be played unless no golf is being played at all. They are the most important tournaments, so they should be played unless health — or other reasons — prevent them from being played.

The show must go on. It’s not what any of us want, but all tournaments are our livelihood and big or small we should play.

There is still that internal pressure to win a major championship. Fans definitely add to the intensity, but at the end of the day Collin, Bryson and Dustin still persevered and deserve to be major champions.

Majors are majors. The history and the allure of the tournaments are enough to get the players juices flowing. It will still be a worthy winner. And given it’s not likely to be a common occurrence, a year or two of no fans isn’t a deal breaker.

This is our job and can’t stop because fans can’t watch in person.

They can’t share the same weight as they always do because the crowds affect the outcome, especially if it’s younger players winning majors.

The events are about the golf, not fans. Fans make the experience different, but the golf is the same.

The event means the world to the player, not just the fans. The events are televised and the fans can still see the best play.

Interested in more from our April 2021 installment of Caddie Confidential? Be sure to check out what caddies believe to be the best Masters traditions, as well as whether or not they think the Masters is overrated

You can view all the results from our entire Caddie Confidential by clicking here.

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