Quiet please: A PGA with no fans and the new normal for golf

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

A fans watches through a hole in the fence along the the 12th hole during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

To those overserved boors who insist on screaming “Mashed Potatoes!” every time Dustin Johnson or Brooks Koepka unloads with their driver, we have one simple request for you.

Please come back.

For this week at the PGA championship, the same goes for every lunkhead who snapped a photo in the middle of a backswing, every 50-year-old who crowded out a kid in an autograph line, every scampering porta-potty seeker who incurred the wrath of an over-officious caddie.

When golf returned eight weeks ago from its coronavirus-inflicted hiatus, we were grateful. Grateful simply to have something new, and live, to watch. Someone to cheer for. Or against. Only problem: There was hardly any cheering. And, as Rory McIlroy put it about midway through a largely silent, largely joyless, very sanitized restart to the 2020 season: “Every tournament has felt the same.“

Now the stakes are higher. It’s the PGA. The year’s first major under the pandemic-shuffled schedule. Players are making their way around the grounds of Harding Park in San Francisco in virtual silence. And, true to McIlroy’s word, except for the marine layer, a few more stocking caps, that neck gaiter Tiger Woods is wearing and the live shots of players getting ready for their rounds in the parking lot, this one looks the same as they all have this year: empty, silent, sterile.

“You miss the positivity, the energy,” said Martin Kaymer, whose round of 4-under 66 put him within one of the lead after the morning action Thursday. “But you have to create it somehow yourself.”

The day began with the usual pomp of the opening-tee introductions. “Now on the tee, please welcome, from Dallas, Texas, Scottie Scheffler.” The starter used a microphone. Why?

Some things never change. Woods still draws the biggest crowds. But it was only reporters and cameramen following him around the course, this time. And Koepka, in search of his third straight PGA title, still plays under the radar. Of course, this week, he’s not the only one not being seen.