By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) - As the PGA Tour returns to competition this week in Fort Worth, Texas amid the COVID-19 outbreak, golfers used to feeding off the energy of raucous galleries will have an empty feeling as they adjust to competing on a course closed to spectators.
"Can you imagine if somebody makes a 30-foot bomb on 18 to win the tournament? Nothing? Crickets? It's going to be a little weird," world number two Jon Rahm said ahead of this week's Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club.
While there will be no fans lining the fairways or greens, golfers still expect to follow the game's etiquette even with no applause to acknowledge.
"I'm sure you'll see guys dropping putts and they put their hand up and realize there's nobody there," said defending Colonial champion Kevin Na.
Former champion Jordan Spieth, part of a strong field that includes the top five players in the world rankings, has enjoyed plenty of support at this event having grown up in nearby Dallas.
"Once the tournament starts, it'll be weird because we're used to being able to use the energy of the fans and feed off of them," said Spieth, who will play the first two rounds alongside fellow Americans Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas.
World number four Thomas feels playing on an empty course still beats sitting at home waiting for the day when spectators can return.
"I would say that every single person in this field would gladly say that they would rather be playing without fans than wait and play with fans, if that means it's a couple weeks sooner," Thomas said.
While golfers acknowledge the tournament won't have the same energy as a normal PGA Tour event, there will still be nerve-wracking shots with the winner set to pocket $1.35 million.
"I still think you're still going to be nervous, you're still going to get those juices flowing -- especially on Sunday coming down the stretch," said world number five Dustin Johnson.
"But yeah, it'll definitely be weird. There won't be any noise out there."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)