(Reuters) - Players stopped for a moment of silence to honour George Floyd as the PGA Tour’s return following a three-month forced coronavirus hiatus got off to a subdued start on Thursday at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
At 8:46 CT (1346 GMT) the horns sounded three times at stately Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas and across the sun-kissed layout players stopped in their tracks to honour Floyd, a black American man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck.
With no spectators allowed on the course it was a solemn scene as golfers and their caddies, heads bowed, stood silently on greens, tees, fairways and the practice range.
The 8:46 tee time will be left blank and a moment of silence observed throughout all four rounds of the July 11-14 tournament.
Eight minutes and 46 seconds is the length of time that Floyd was filmed pinned under the officer’s knee.
“The PGA Tour commits to amplifying the voices and efforts to end systemic issues of social racial injustice. We have reserved the 8:46 tee time to pause for a moment of silence, prayer and reflection. Thank you,” said PGA Tour president Jay Monahan in a brief remark from the first tee just before the horn sounded.
As golfers went back to work for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak forced a shutdown of the PGA Tour in mid-March, it was anything but business as usual.
Golfers have undergone mandatory testing prior to teeing off and are expected to follow a long list of social-distancing guidelines while out on the course, including selecting and replacing their own clubs from the bag.
While players were excited to be back, with no fans present, there was none of the buzz normally washing over a tournament boasting a major-like field headlined by world number one Rory McIlroy and the world’s top-five ranked players.
The featured group of McIlroy, world number two Spaniard Jon Rahm and number three Brooks Koepka, who tee off 1:06 p.m. CT (1806 GMT), would normally attract a massive gallery but will instead only have themselves for company.
As first-round play got underway, Britain’s Justin Rose showed no signs of a layoff as he jumped into the early lead, picking up three birdies on his opening four holes to get to three-under.
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis