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Golf is back - but certainly not as we know it

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South Korea’s Ye-Rim Choi hits a tee shot on the first hole during the first round of the 42nd KLPGA Championship. The KLPGA is the world’s first major golf tour to be in action amid the coronavirus pandemic. Photo :Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

South Korea’s Ye-Rim Choi hits a tee shot on the first hole during the first round of the 42nd KLPGA Championship. The KLPGA is the world’s first major golf tour to be in action amid the coronavirus pandemic. Photo :Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Getty Images

South Korea’s Ye-Rim Choi hits a tee shot on the first hole during the first round of the 42nd KLPGA Championship. The KLPGA is the world’s first major golf tour to be in action amid the coronavirus pandemic. Photo :Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

After eight weeks and three days, golf finally resumed on a major tour yesterday with the first round of the KLPGA Championship near Seoul.

If this is what the sport has to look forward to in these new, fanless months, then viewers should prepare to bring their own atmosphere into the living room.

Birdsong could be heard across the broadcast - which came via a stream from Canada - but otherwise there was an eerie quiet as balls hit fairways, greens and the back of the hole. But with a prize-fund of over €2million and a winner's cheque of almost €200,000, silence will indeed be golden for the victor. It's immediately apparent to any viewer that without even a merest ripple of applause, golf does not feel the same. Neither does it look the same.

A few of the players wore masks and it was noticeable that, by and large, they were pulling their own clubs from the bags as their caddies - all of whom were reported to have worn masks - tried to obey social distancing.

However, on this evidence, it is simply not feasible to expect the two-metre gap to last for the full 18 holes. And wait until the players reach the tension of Sunday, when they will increasingly rely on their compadres.

The safety procedures at Lakewood Country Club in Yangju, 20 miles north of the South Korean capital, include temperature checks and hi-tech sanitisers that require the players to walk through a device beaming UV light on their way to the range. Players must eat their lunch alone, with the solitary seats at the tables facing in one direction, while the media's desks are in the open air.

Despite a recent spike in infections in a country that has been hailed as one of the benchmark-setters in controlling the Covid-19 pandemic, no testing at the course is deemed necessary.

Korea had yet to feature a tournament this year, so the full starting sheet was no surprise, and with three members of the world's top 10 in attendance, there can be no doubt that this is a serious event, although none of that trio figured on the first-day leaderboard.

World No 3 Park Sung-hyun, the two-time Major winner, was dismayed with her putting but vowed to bounce back from her 73. Instead, Bae Seon-woo, Kim Char-young and Hyun Selin led the way after shooting five-under 67s. Of these, Bae, the world No 33 is the best known. The 26-year-old won the last tournament she played in December.

The LPGA Tour resumes in mid-July and it is increasingly confident that the British Open at Troon in August will go ahead, albeit behind closed doors. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk