(Reuters) - The absence of fans at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas as the PGA Tour resumed play on Thursday after a three-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic took plenty of getting used to for the players.
Gary Woodland shot a bogey-free, five-under-par 65 in the first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge in a threesome with Phil Mickelson and defending champion Kevin Na and felt he was impacted by the lack of energy on the course.
“I told my caddie early on, I didn’t feel like I was hitting it as far because my adrenaline wasn’t up,” Woodland told reporters.
“It’s a big deal. Especially when you play with Phil and you get some of those big groups, you get so much adrenaline, the golf ball seems like it goes miles.
“It felt like kind of a practice round out there, same kind
American Ryan Palmer, who kicked off the action at Colonial when he hit the first competitive shot on the PGA Tour in 91 days, said the absence of spectators - one of a number of safety measures in place - forced him to get creative.
“You hit a putt and it goes in, and you’re talking to yourself, making the crowd noise yourself, I guess,” Palmer said after an opening 72.
Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas said he missed the spectators the moment he stepped up to take his first swing.
“It felt strange to be honest, just kind of getting on the first tee and having your name called and not having anyone around to say anything, it felt like, hey, what’s going on here,” Vegas said.
Perhaps nobody benefited more from the empty course than 61-year-old former champion Tom Lehman, who shot 65 for his lowest round at Colonial since 1999.
“It’s a lower pressure atmosphere,” said Lehman. “That’s the thing about the PGA Tour; I wouldn’t say it’s a circus, but it’s a big event. There’s so many people and there’s so much happening each week at a tour event, and this is such on the down-low type thing.
“The pressure is all internal versus all maybe the circumstances that surround you.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond