Sanford International boasts top-level field, and fans in 2020
Tournament will be nation’s first pro golf event to welcome fans since COVID-19
SIOUX FALLS — The 2020 Sanford International golf tournament has a lot more riding on it than a $1.8 million purse and $270,000 to the winner.
Instead, it represents the first PGA Tour tournament of any kind to take place with fans since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. The three-day, 54-hole tournament begins at 11 a.m. Friday at the par-70 Minnehaha Country Club and continues through Sunday.
Tournament officials are putting in place many of the safety precautions spectators have become used to in other walks of life — recommending social distancing, the use of hand sanitizer monitoring for symptoms before coming onto the property. High-traffic areas and equipment will be sanitized with a misting solution overnight between rounds of play.
Non-contact wrist thermometers will be used prior to spectators getting on shuttle buses from the parking lot to the course. Spectators for the tournament are encouraged to take their own temperature at home, asking that ticket holders do not attend if their temperature is above 100 degrees. Masks are strongly recommended, especially in close quarters, but not required.
It is somewhat fitting that the Sioux Falls tournament for pro golfers 50 and older would be the first to debut fans, which are expected to be capped at around 10,000 per day. That’s because tournament sponsor Sanford Health has been conducting COVID-19 testing of players and caddies since the PGA Tour season restarted in May and since the Champions Tour restarted at the end of July. The tournament will be just one of 14 to be played this season, after the PGA Tour Champions’ original schedule included 27 events.
As for the golf, here are some golfers to keep an eye on in a loaded, 81-player field:
Rich Beem: He’s famous in South Dakota lore for working next door to Minnehaha Country Club at the former Westward Ho Country Club in the 1990s as an assistant golf pro prior to winning the 2002 PGA Championship over Tiger Woods. Beem, 50, is making his second career start on the senior tour. Other former major winners Angel Cabrera and Mike Weir — who both won the Masters and will play at Augusta National Golf Club this November — are also playing this week in Sioux Falls for the first time.
Ernie Els: The four-time major champion is making his seventh start on the PGA Tour Champions this week and won earlier this year in his third start since turning 50 and joining the PGA Tour Champions. Els and fellow World Golf Hall of Fame member Fred Couples will make their tournament debuts.
Bernhard Langer: He’s playing a tournament for the first time since turning 63 years old on Aug. 27, but Langer is usually knocking on the door of another victory. The leader on the season-long Charles Schwab Cup standings has seven top-10 finishes in nine starts this year.
Rocco Mediate: Mediate, 57, played in the fifth-to-last group in the final round of the 2019 tournament and shot a 64 on Sunday to win the tournament by two strokes over Ken Duke, Bob Estes and Colin Montgomerie. That run included just one bogey in the final 36 holes. Mediate finished tied for fifth — a season-best — two weeks ago in Missouri at the tournament first-time PGA Tour Champions starter Phil Mickelson won.
Tim Petrovic: He’s sniffed success at Minnehaha and is in good recent form, off three sub-66 rounds in his last tournament for a second-place finish. He also was second in 2018 at Minnehaha and had a final round 65.
Steve Stricker: The 53-year-old Wisconsinite was the inaugural champion in 2018, including an opening-round 63. He missed the 2019 tournament for a long-planned elk hunting trip and was slated to play this event prior to captaining the U.S. team at the Ryder Cup in two weeks. Instead, the Ryder Cup in his home state at Whistling Straits Golf Course is delayed to 2021 and he’s the only player in Sioux Falls using it as a tune-up for next week’s rescheduled U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York.