A weekend when Rory McIlroy missed a celebrated sporting battle so that another one might be secured will always be inextricably linked with Harding Park. This is where San Francisco's far from modest municipal facility will stage the first Major of its 95-year history when the 102nd PGA Championship starts on Thursday behind closed doors.
It is the culmination of some remarkable happenings in these remarkable times. The lavishly-constructed merchandise pavilion of 82,000 square feet, where millions of dollars would have been spent on memorabilia of the event, has been transformed into a space exclusive to players and caddies so as to comply with social distancing regulations.
In a curious way, it reminds me of the Oak Hill Club in New York State and the way they had to radically adjust plans for the 1995 Ryder Cup, from their staging of the US Open six years previously. This included doubling the size of the media centre.
For this week's event, a drastic reduction in the number of on-site scribes has caused the original working area to be redesigned and shifted to a virtual media centre. And the removal of spectator stands on the first, third, fourth and ninth holes has allowed maintenance workers to repair any damage to the course caused by these being in place for four months.
Six years of planning had gone into finalising an event which was geared for daily crowds of up to 40,000 who would generate revenues of $100m for the San Francisco area. Yet as if to illustrate the power of 100 hours of television coverage on CBS and ESPN, silence will remain golden for this week's challengers. As a beleaguered local tourist official optimistically remarked: "Hopefully, the television exposure will inspire people to travel here when it's time."
Ireland will have three challengers, all of them US-based. McIlroy, twice a winner of this title in 2012 and 2014, will be joined by Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell. But Pádraig Harrington, whose last competitive round was in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill on March 6, has withdrawn.
His reason for not travelling, couldn't be more basic. "Personal safety," he told me. "I can see it being essential for other pros from a career standpoint, but that can't be the case for me. I like to stick to the Covid rules as set out by our Government."
He added: "I feel safe here at home, especially the way I live my life. I tend to be prudent in such matters and when something threatens the quality of my life, my automatic reaction is to back off."
So, after 21 appearances in the PGA, this will be the first one he has missed since 1999. And where Harrington earned $1.35m from a fund of $7.5m at Oakland Hills in 2008, next Sunday's winner will receive $1.98m from $11m.
The other three Irishmen experienced Harding Park back in May 2015 in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play in which McIlroy triumphed. That was when, on the Saturday of tournament week, he had ringside seats for the so-called 'Battle for Greatness' between Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas.
By that stage, however, he had embellished his status as world number one by beating Jason Duffner, Brandt Snedeker, Billy Horschel, Hideki Matsuyama and Paul Casey. Which left him in the semi-finals to be played the following morning.
"I finished up watching the fight on the big screen in the media centre," he recalled, adding that it turned out to be a "great night", not least because of the supplies of pizza and beer he had laid on. And the Las Vegas tickets? It so happened that Harry Diamond had travelled to Harding Park to watch his friend's progress and on being offered the tickets, he gladly accepted.
Diamond, of course, will be back in San Francisco this week, having replaced JP Fitzgerald as McIlroy's bagman. Meanwhile, dedication to duty brought McIlroy a one-hole semi-final win over Jim Furyk followed by victory over Gary Woodland by 4 and 2 in the final.
McDowell has further experience of Harding Park from the WGC American Express Championship in October 2005 when Tiger Woods captured the title on the second hole of a play-off with John Daly. As it happened, the Portrush native carded two 68s on the weekend to be tied sixth, in the company of Vijay Singh, among others.
McIlroy, meanwhile, believes he reaped a handsome dividend from the recent American visit of his long-time coach, Michael Bannon, who spent a week with him at West Palm Beach. "Obviously, I had sent Michael videos of my swing during the lockdown, but it was still hard for him to see what the ball flight was and the sort of stuff that goes along with being a golf coach," he said. "So for him to see how I'm hitting it, what was going on, was just a great thing."
He added: "To be technical, my club-face was getting a little shut going on; my right arm was getting a little too much on top of the shaft instead of letting my right elbow fold, plus a little bit of external rotation in my shoulder. So there's a couple of little things we worked on and I think it was very beneficial to spend time with him."
Brooks Koepka, the defending champion, is seeking the unique distinction of winning three successive PGAs since it became a stroke-play event in 1958. And his description of Harding Park as "a big boy's golf course", could be interpreted as an attempt at ego-boosting at a time when his form is poor because of a protracted left knee injury.
"You have to be able to hit it long there," he added about the 7,234-yard, par-70 layout. "It's very difficult, truly a Major championship golf course. The finish will be especially interesting. I think it will be a great finish."
He was referring to the closing three holes, starting with the 16th which, at 336 yards, is a driveable par four, albeit with an overhanging cypress and strategic bunkering to be negotiated at the extremely tricky green. Then comes the 171-yard 17th, the shortest hole on the course. And finally, there's the 463-yard 18th, a severe right-to-left dog-leg bordering Lake Merced on the left and with a new back tee to bring the fairway bunkering more into play.
Dating back to 1925 and named after the golfing US president, Warren G Harding, the course was designed for a fee of $300 by the distinguished architectural partnership of Willie Watson and Sam Whiting, who were also responsible for the Olympic Club nearby. They set a classic parkland layout against the backdrop of Lake Merced on terrain dominated by mature, cypress trees and featuring soft bunkers and graceful, undulating fairways.
Mark Twain famously remarked that the coldest winter he ever experienced was summer in San Francisco. Which is not good news for Woods, who needs the sun on his back these days if he is to derive full benefit from a spinal fusion. Remarking on El Tigre's performance in the recent Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, McIlroy said: "He hit a couple of fairway-wood shots off the tee that he sort of quit on. He wasn't quite moving as well as usual, which brought a bit of a grimace. But he's never been one to make excuses. He's never going to do that."
Woods heads for the PGA having played only three official tournaments this year, the Farmer's Insurance Open (tied ninth) last January, the Genesis Invitational (68th) in mid-February and the Memorial (tied 40th). But we should always be aware that the truly great ones set their own standards.
Like, for instance, Ben Hogan did in 1953 when, in his first 72-hole event of the year, he won the Masters with a tournament record aggregate of 274. And he went on to complete five official victories in a row, the final two being the US Open and the Open Championship, though the latter had yet to be included in the official PGA Tour schedule.
The remainder of his 1953 American performances were in four pro-ams of which only one was over 72 holes. This was the Greenbrier Invitational on May 10 in which he was tied third behind Sam Snead.
With or without galleries, Major successes put a player into a different category from his peers. While tending to avoid the limelight, Koepka was moved to comment: "You can win as many tour events as you want, but at the end of the day, you're remembered by how many Majors you've won."
The four-time Major winner added: "I've said it before, Arnie, Jack, Tom Watson, Gary Player, all these guys . . . I can't tell you how many PGA Tour events they won, but I promise you everybody knows how many Majors they won." For Woods, the figure is 15 and you feel that, bad back and all, there's still time for a few more.
Much attention this week, however, will focus on Dubai Duty Free Irish Open champion, Jon Rahm, the recently-crowned world number one. Clearly relishing his new-found status, the Spaniard said: "Even my close friend Phil [Mickelson], a five-time Major champion, wasn't able to get there."
Staying there, however, seems to be a lot more difficult, given that since March 2016, the role has been filled by Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Koepka and McIlroy, all of whom, incidentally, will be present at Harding Park.
By the time the first ball is struck next Thursday, 12 months and 15 days will have elapsed since we experienced the wild, heart-stopping excitement of Lowry's Open triumph at Royal Portrush. All that time without a Major. Even if it amounts to no more than the domestic din of the TV room, it is beyond time to break the silence.
1st, 393 yards, par 4: A relatively straightforward opening hole at under 400 yards and with no fairway bunkers. A sole greenside bunker is the biggest challenge on the approach shot.
2nd, 466 yards, par 4: Two fairway bunkers to the left of the fairway narrow the landing area and a deep bunker on the right guards a subtly sloping green.
3rd, 185 yards, par 3: The elevated green means players cannot see the putting surface from the tee, while the front of the green is protected by two bunkers.
4th, 607 yards, par 5: The longest hole on the course requires a tee shot shaped around the right-to-left dog-leg to find a bunker-free fairway. The wide green offers plenty of possible pin placements.
5th, 436 yards, par 4: Another hole without any fairway bunkers, its main defence is a long, narrow green with a steep drop off on the right-hand side.
6th, 472 yards, par 4: A difficult tee shot must be played through a chute of trees to find a fairway which turns from right to left, while three bunkers guard a large, contoured green.
7th, 340 yards, par 4: The likes of Bryson DeChambeau will be tempted to try to drive the green, which has bunkers front left and right. More sand to the left of the fairway could catch any mishit shots.
8th, 251 yards, par 3: A dauntingly long hole where par will be a good score. The green sits at an angle from the tee and features a front-right bunker and grass swale to the left.
9th, 515 yards, par 4: Converted from a par five for the championship, the final hole on the front nine is also protected by a cluster of fairway bunkers and more up at the green.
10th, 562 yards, par 5: The back nine opens with a good scoring opportunity with this reachable par-five. Avoiding bunkers to the right of the fairway leaves an approach to a receptive green.
11th, 200 yards, par 3: A straightforward par three which plays slightly downhill to a green protected by bunkers right and left at the front of the putting surface.
12th, 494 yards, par 4: Another hole converted from a par five, this gentle dog-leg from right to left features out-of-bounds all the way down the left-hand side and cypress trees short and right of the green.
13th, 472 yards, par 4: A new championship tee means the tee shot must be shaped left to right to avoid an overhanging cypress and clear a fairway bunker.
14th, 470 yards, par 4: The undulating fairway slopes towards a deep gully on the left and means uphill approach shots are often played from an uneven lie to a green which slopes from back to front.
15th, 401 yards, par 4: A short, downhill par four which could encourage the bigger hitters to cut the corner of the right-to-left dog-leg and get close to the green. A good birdie chance.
16th, 336 yards, par 4: Already tempting for the aforementioned big hitters, the tee could be moved forward to give more players the chance to drive a tricky green which is well guarded by bunkers.
17th, 171 yards, par 3: The shortest hole on the course runs alongside Lake Merced and could provide a crucial late birdie if players can judge the wind correctly.
18th, 463 yards, par 4: The lake is more in play on the dramatic closing hole, which curves from right to left around the water and demands a brave tee shot before an approach to a tricky, elevated green.