THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — While praising the PGA Tour for the way it has handled the return to competition during the coronavirus pandemic, Phil Mickelson also expressed doubt about having a limited number of spectators return at the Vivint Houston Open, especially given the tournament is only a week prior to the Masters.
Mickelson said Wednesday he might skip the tournament, which announced last week it would be the first PGA Tour event in the United States to allow spectators, capped at 2,000 per day.
“I think that they will do a very good, safe job in having 2,000 people at the Houston Open,” Mickelson said at Sherwood Country Club, where he is playing in this week’s Zozo Championship. “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. But then I have to give the Tour a lot of credit and confidence in the way that they’ve handled the entire year and I’m sure they’re going to do a great job at keeping the players safe in that environment.
“But because I haven’t seen it before, because it’s the first one out on the Tour with some people, I’m unsure and I don’t want to take any unnecessary risks. I don’t go out to dinner, I don’t go out and socialize, because I want to make sure that I have an opportunity to compete in the Masters.”
The Masters, like all the tournaments played since the restart in June, is requiring players to take a COVID-19 test and get a negative result before being allowed on the golf course.
Mickelson, a three-time Masters winner who is coming off his second victory in as many tries on the PGA Tour Champions, said he might play the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix instead as preparation for the Masters.
The Houston tournament announced last week that it would allow 2,000 spectators per day at Memorial Park Golf Course, the first-time site of the event.
Next week’s Bermuda Championship will be the first PGA Tour event to admit a limited number of spectators. The 2,000 tickets at the Houston Open will be priced at $79 for the opening round and $109 for the final three rounds, with food options included. The tickets went on sale Wednesday.
The Nov. 5-8 tournament will require all spectators, volunteers and tournament workers to wear masks at all times while on the grounds. It will be the first U.S.-based tournament to have spectators since March, when they were allowed for the first round of the Players Championship before the event was canceled, leading to a 13-week break.
Since resuming, the Tour has announced 15 positive COVID-19 tests, the latest being Adam Scott at this week’s Zozo Championship. He withdrew from the tournament Wednesday. No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson tested positive last week at the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek and also withdrew from this week’s Zozo Championship.
“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,” Mickelson said. “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.”
Mickelson said if the PGA Champions event does not have spectators, he will likely play that instead of the PGA Tour event in Houston. Now ranked 58th in the world, Mickelson has those two Champions Tour wins but has mostly struggled on the PGA Tour. His last event was a missed cut at the U.S. Open. He tied for second at the WGC-FedEx St.Jude Invitational in August, but missed seven cuts in 2020. He finished third at Pebble Beach and tied for third at a European Tour event in Saudi Arabia earlier this year.
“I think the PGA Tour players, caddies and everybody involved has done a great job of being accountable to themselves and each other and being safe and making sure that the game of golf is able to continue to go on and compete,” he said. “And the Tour’s done a great job, too.
“There were a few false positives earlier on and those are the things that worry me because that’s the scare. Because I know that I’ve been able to stay safe, that my circle of Andrew Getson (coach) and Tim (Mickelson, brother and caddie) and Amy (wife) and everybody has been safe, so we’ve all made those precautions, but the false positive is the thing that scares me.”