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European Tour players set to wear microphones during ‘UK Swing’

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Rory MCilroy and Dustin Johnson wore microphones while playing in a charity match earlier this monthEuropean Tour golfers will be encouraged to divulge their innermost thoughts when they resume playing in July.In a groundbreaking move, tournament bosses want players to wear television microphones while competing to enhance coverage of events played behind closed doors.Although professionals…

Dustin Johnson (left) and Rory McIlroy

Rory MCilroy and Dustin Johnson wore microphones while playing in a charity match earlier this month

European Tour golfers will be encouraged to divulge their innermost thoughts when they resume playing in July.

In a groundbreaking move, tournament bosses want players to wear television microphones while competing to enhance coverage of events played behind closed doors.

Although professionals have worn mics during television broadcasts such as last Sunday’s charity match involving Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, this is a significant move for tour events.

Viewers will hear conversations with caddies and fellow players, and European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley believes it will become “the way of life” at future events.

“Covid-19 allows you permission to try things a little bit differently,” Pelley told BBC Sport. “I think you have to be as creative as you possibly can when you are playing behind closed doors.

“It really comes down to how open you are, how creative you are and how your players want to embrace change. This is the time for us to do some things completely differently.”

TV presenter and former player Nick Dougherty wore a microphone while playing the British Masters in 2015 but this would be the first time for wider implementation.

“People said when we started doing in-round interviews that it’ll never work,” Pelley added.

“Now they are a key component of our broadcast. To get an insight into the mind of a professional golfer during the actual moment of deciding whether he is going to hit a five or six iron is fantastic.”

Pelley expects players to agree to the move and points out that none will lose European Tour cards at the end of this truncated season. “That reduces the pressure,” he said.

“Once you’ve actually had a wireless mic on in competition and it hasn’t affected you in any such way – technology has come so far that it is really, really small and won’t disturb your swing – then it just becomes commonplace and a way of life.”

Microphones are expected to be used in television featured groups during a swing of six UK events that mark the resumption of the tour schedule. The sequence starts with the British Masters at Close House near Newcastle on 22 July.

The English Open will be played at Forest of Arden the following week and the English Championship at Hanbury Manor will start on 6 August. There will then be back to back events at Celtic Manor, the home of the 2010 Ryder Cup.

Concluding the run of British events will be a new UK Championship to be held at another former Ryder Cup venue, the Belfry near Sutton Coldfield, between 27-30 August.

The 2020 Open will not take place, having been cancelled last month.

The tournaments depend on a lifting of government quarantine measures affecting travellers coming into the UK. There is confidence this will not prove a barrier to the tour, which has seen no play since early March.

“In terms of the UK we are very encouraged and very optimistic that the hotels will be operational by the time we play at the end of July and that we will be able to get some dispensation for our players in terms of quarantine,” Pelley added.

“And that is absolutely critical for us.”

The Scottish Open at Renaissance and the PGA Championship at Wentworth are due to be held in October in an overall schedule of up to 24 events.

There is no confirmation on whether the Ryder Cup will happen at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin this September. Several players, led by world number one Rory McIlroy, insist it should be postponed if there are no spectators.

“The Ryder Cup is still on our schedule and that’s all we are saying at this particular time,” Pelley said.

He confirmed the season-long Race to Dubai will conclude in December and still carry a bonus pool for the most successful players, but admitted prize funds will be hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The six British events this summer will each carry purses of around one million euros, which is only a third of the pot at the British Masters last year.

“For this year the prize funds have been reduced, they are directly attributed to revenue,” Pelley admitted.

“When revenue is in decline, prize funds have to decline. That’s what we are dealing with right now.”

The European Tour is funding the tournaments as well as spending “north of £2m” on a Covid-19 testing programme put in place for players, caddies and officials at the initial tournaments.

Pelley accepts his tour faces huge challenges because of its international nature but insists the current crisis is a major opportunity for the game. “There are a lot of lights being shone on golf right now,” he said.

“Let’s be honest, it is one of the few sports that really lends itself to proper social distancing and that has made golf very fashionable and we have to capitalise on that.”

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