Justin Rose: “Golf needs to be on the front foot to bounce back from Coronavirus”


“There is an opportunity to play golf sooner than other sports. If it’s safe to do so, we have to be  proactive and take that chance.”

I think the penny dropped as to how serious things were becoming in March, just after they cancelled The Players. Cancelling that seemed reactive and surreal, but everyone knew it was coming and, in hindsight, shutting things down was the right thing to do.

Our news in the Bahamas is very US-centric and we’ve locked down here very much along the lines of the US. I feel terrible for everybody who’s caught up from firstly a health point of view, and secondly economically. It’s staggering to see the world shut down.

I’ve been able to stay relatively busy. I’m lucky to have a gym, a putting green and a simulator in the house, and it’s important to find the opportunities to use them in this unprecedented situation. I’m working hard and enjoying the family time. I’ve really enjoyed spending time with the kids and it’s even given me the opportunity to get them a little more interested in golf, which has been really nice. The range is still open at Albany, with guidelines, so that enables me to get out the house for an hour or two a day. Another positive is that it came at a good time for me golf-wise, if there is ever a good time. I wasn’t playing particularly well. It’s a chance for me to reset and build again. This is an opportunity to either get ahead or fall behind, and you don’t want the latter.

I think the PGA Tour need to be aggressive if they want to play the FedEx Cup, so that date to be playing again for me would be June. That’s clearly on the front end of things, and who knows under what modifications we could start to play. Golf has the advantage of being outdoors, the players don’t have to be in contact with each other and the caddie situation could be modified for social distancing. There is an opportunity to play golf sooner than other sports. I think people want to watch some live sport when they’re in isolation. People are missing it and there’s an opportunity for whichever sport can get back and captivate an audience.

This year's Fed Ex Cup will look very different due to Coronavirus, if it is able to go ahead at all.

Of course, we can’t start playing if there are still nationwide lockdowns. You have to wait until the world goes back to work. But as that does begin to happen, golf needs to be on the front foot. We’re not putting golf out there with a separate set of rules to the rest of the world, but we need to be proactive and positioned so that we’re on the front end as and when things do begin to open up again.

It’s bleak that The Open had to be cancelled. Something probably had to give when we’re looking at a finite number of dates for tournaments, but I’m so disappointed that we won’t be playing it. As you tick along in your career you look at the opportunities you have left. When you’re in the peak, you want to make the most of those moments, so any chance that gets taken away from you makes it harder because you’ve only got a finite number of “next years”. Having said that, I’m pleased The R&A has slid everything back a year so Royal St George’s still gets to host it in 2021 and the 150th Open will be at St Andrews in 2022. We could still play the three remaining majors between August and November, but the FedEx Cup is going to run into that period, and you’ve got the Ryder Cup as well. It’s possible to play them all, but to what cost? You could play everything back-to-back, but the players aren’t going to enjoy it as much. But at this point, beggars can’t be choosers. We want to play the big events and the fans might love that kind of intense season.

Losing events makes it really tricky in terms of opportunities to qualify for the Ryder Cup team as well. The teams always look a little random early in the qualification, and I haven’t even looked at the standings yet. Maybe this would be the time to totally change the structure of how the teams are picked, but I think it’s too early to really tell. That might only be the case if we don’t play again until September.

You want guys in current form, but the Ryder Cup is a different beast. It’s not like you’ve been playing well for two months so you’re going to turn up at a Ryder Cup and play well. It’s a sink or swim type of environment so experience does count for a lot and you want a mix of guys playing well, young talent and players who can be the glue. If you’re limited in picks and the team hasn’t really taken shape, there are going to be some obvious omissions. You’d ideally want more flexibility as a captain. But you can’t deny guys the opportunity who have played well, so it’s a tricky balance. We’ve had nearly six months of qualifying already, albeit without any majors included (for the European lists), so maybe another two to three months of golf before the teams are finalised is a fair period – and you could increase the picks from three to four if needs be.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a perfect scenario. It’s now the kind of year where you just suck it and see, go for it and be thankful for whatever golf we can get played.

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