It has been three months since Chase Seiffert last played a PGA Tour event thanks to the suspension of play in March because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
It’s not exactly how the Florida State graduate envisioned his first full season on the PGA Tour going, though the thought of getting back on the course, as he will do Thursday at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, sparks an unusual level of joy and anticipation.
“I have almost never been more excited to play,” he said. “I’m just so excited to get out and play. It will be different, obviously, with no fans and all and the different protocols we have to do, but I’m just eager to get back out and compete and try to get in the playoffs.”
The playoffs Seiffert refers to are the FedExCup Playoffs, which feature the top 125 golfers in the FedEx Cup standings and locks in a PGA Tour card for the next season.
Seiffert currently sits at 157th in the standings and 72 points out of the 125th spot. With Seiffert likely to play five or six more events this season, he said getting into the top 125 is well within his reach.
“In reality, that’s one really good week or a couple of good weeks,” he said. “Obviously I want to make the cut in all of my starts and comfortably make it in, but I can easily make the playoffs if I come out and play well right out of the gate.”
This won’t be quite the same PGA Tour that it was when Seiffert last played, however, with no fans in attendance and rigorous COVID-19 testing for both players and caddies.
Seiffert had to be tested off-site before he could even go to the course this week to practice, with daily temperature checks and social distancing measures for players and caddies once on the course.
While the safety measures obviously are a major adjustment, perhaps the most jarring change for pro golfers is playing without fans in attendance.
It’s not totally foreign to Seiffert, who played a Korn Ferry Tour event in Ponte Vedra Beach two weeks ago and said ultimately it wasn’t that much of a distraction.
“It wasn’t bad at all,” he said. “There are some instances where it’s nice to have the fans there because they can give you some energy sometimes when you need it, especially on a Sunday when you hit a really cool shot. It’s nice to have fans there to support you and help you out.
“But I wouldn’t say it was that crazy. I didn’t feel like I was at home playing. It’s still an event and you’re still there for a reason and you want to play well.”
The flip side of the adrenaline rush of a gallery of fans giving a rousing ovation after a big shot is the tension that comes with crowds around you before attempting that big shot. Seiffert said having no fans at the course could make the pressure shots a bit less stressful than normal.
“I think it will be a little easier almost to win a tournament down the stretch without the fans there and the extra adrenaline,” he said. “Nobody’s immune to hitting shots in front of people, especially when you’re hitting in front of thousands of people. You’re a little more anxious with a little more adrenaline. You want to do well in front of everybody, so in that regard it will be a little different going forward.”
Seiffert also tried to find a bright side in the layoff, which he used to work on aspects of his game that he said was more difficult to devote extra time to during a typical schedule, such as refining his downswing and improving his distance control on wedge shots.
As a result, Seiffert said his game currently is in a great place to be able to make a run down the stretch.
“My game is really good right now,” he said. “It’s in a good spot. I’ve got a lot of good work done over the break. I didn’t finish well at the Korn Ferry event, but I played really well. I had some issues with the putter there that I’ve since resolved, but everything is in good shape. I’m looking to play well and go out and try to get in contention.”