Scott Stallings was roasted for citing reasons tour players won't return. They just weren't his reasons
For a few days this week, Scott Stallings became the face of the point-missing professional athlete when he was quoted saying PGA Tour players wouldn’t return to competition if new social distancing restrictions prevented the raking of bunkers in competition. Roasted on social media, including through “some absolutely brutal” direct messages, Stallings said he was characterized as sounding indifferent to the harsh realities of the pandemic.
One small problem: Stallings wasn’t talking about himself.
“From a public perspective it was like ‘Here’s this guy sitting at home in Tennessee doing nothing and now he’s complaining,’’ Stallings said on Friday. “But I was talking in total generalities, not giving my own reasons.”
In fact, Stallings says he falls at the other end of the spectrum.
“I’m ready to play,” he said. “I’ll play holding my bag over my head. I’ll play with one club.”
In an interview with Golf.com, a part of which was also quoted on GolfDigest.com, Stallings said some tour players would draw the line at various limitations being discussed by the tour as it anticipates resuming its schedule next month.
“I just don’t think there’s any way guys are going to do that,” he said. “Guys are not going to play for their livelihood with no rakes in the bunker and no caddies. That’s just not going to happen
“I’m fully confident that there are going to be guys who choose not to play.”
The missing context, Stallings said, had to do with the specific question. He wasn’t asked about his personal reservations, but if he could cite reasons in general tour players might balk at returning to competition.
“The question was presented to me as, ‘Give as many reasons you can think of why players wouldn’t play,’ so I said, 'There are countless reasons,'” Stallings said by phone Friday morning. “But I wasn’t talking about myself.”
Another player, Adam Hadwin, cited similar concerns in an interview this week saying he would have an issue putting with the flagstick still in.
Stallings says he doesn't feel as strongly, but he does acknowledge certain outside-the-ropes considerations need to be addressed. Beyond confirming the first few events upon the restart will be played without fans, the Tour has yet to announce specific safety measures it will implement next month, including how players will be tested and where they will be housed. Stallings said most of his concerns relate to those details, especially in the unfortunate event a player tests positive for Covid-19 and all players would be forced to quarantine in the tournament city at their own expense.
According to a PGA Tour spokesman, "health and safety measures as they relate to competition remain under review." But as Stallings said, it’s complicated.
“Everyone wants golf to be back but it’s not as simple as ‘Let’s go tee off,” he said.