The Break: Phil Mickelson concerned about fans returning in Houston
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The Break: Phil Mickelson concerned about fans returning in Houston



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Today, Phil Mickelson is wondering if welcoming fans at the Houston Open is a good idea.
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Fans at Houston Open: A bad idea?

Fans are coming back to the PGA Tour next week. For the newly minted Vivint Houston Open, organizers will allow approximately 2,000 people per day to the redesigned Memorial Park.

With the event so close to the Masters, Phil Mickelson isn’t sure that’s a good idea.

“I think the PGA Tour’s done an incredible job, I mean an incredible job of getting the players to play and compete in a safe environment,” he said yesterday ahead of the Zozo Championship. “We’ve had a few people test positive. It has not spread from those people. They’ve kept everybody at a good social distance so if somebody does have it, it hasn’t affected and carried through the Tour. I think they’ve done a phenomenal job of having us feel safe. I think that they will do a very good, safe job in having 2,000 people at the Houston Open. However, for me personally, I don’t like the risk that having that happen the week before the Masters. I just feel like the week before the Masters, like that’s a big tournament we have and I just don’t want to have any risk heading in there. So it has made me question whether or not I’ll play there.”

Mickelson said he is planning to compete again on the PGA Tour Champions at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Arizona, provided there won’t be fans there.

So, is bringing fans back a good idea? There are pro-ams again, and the Champions themselves had an event with fans in the summer in South Dakota, a state struggling now with COVID-19 cases. With golf tournaments unfolding on hundreds of acres of land, it seems the PGA Tour can do this right, provided hospitality tents and grandstands aren’t there. Still, Phil’s comments are an indication of the unease plenty of players have with trying to create a bridge back to normalcy right now.

Golf equipment is flying off shelves

As you have probably experienced the last few months, golf has been experiencing a resurgence in popularity amid the pandemic. It’s a safe outdoor activity that’s great exercise in a beautiful setting. Even with having to suffer the humiliation of being bad at golf (almost everyone is bad at golf), it’s a winner!

Turns out that increased turnout from lapsed golfers, new golfers and existing golfers has meant a huge jump in equipment sales. Golf Datatech, which tracks such things, said the third quarter was the second-biggest quarter of sales on record, with more than $1 billion sold. It’s the largest third quarter ever by more than $150 million. It’s a 42 percent increase over the third quarter in 2019. Insane.

It’s unreasonable to think this is going to last beyond the pandemic. People will go back to the office, and when other activities are deemed safer, golf probably won’t hold as much sway. Hopefully lots of the people who have flocked to golf stick with it, and hopefully golf doesn’t use this boost as an opportunity to not keep making the game more welcoming to all people.

You gotta check out…

Aussie golf has been decimated: The American fall and early winter is when Australian golf gets a chance to shine to an audience of diehards who love watching the game played differently Down Under. This year, though, that’s not going to happen. The Aussie Open, Women’s Aussie Open, Aussie PGA and Vic Open (played simultaneously by men and women) are all off for the upcoming planned editions. It’s a sad reality of the pandemic and pro golf outside of the world’s biggest tours that it has become difficult to put on world-class events without the backing of PGA Tour or European Tour.

Morning Drive is returning: The Golf Channel’s morning show has been off the air for three weeks, in part because Golf Channel’s HQ in Florida has been closed while there’s an investigation of claims of illegal toxic waste dumping by neighboring Lockheed Martin. I reached out to the network to understand if the show was done or on hiatus, and I was told they’re coming back on Monday. However, Golf Channel sources have continued to tell me that the brand may go away by the end of the year.
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About the author

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Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]thegolfnewsnet.com

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