No fans, now no players: PGA Tour shuts down for a month

Manama: The Players Championship went from having no fans to having no players. In a surprise announcement Thursday night, the PGA Tour canceled the rest of The Players Championship and decided to shut down its other tournaments for the next three weeks.

Only 10 hours earlier, as the opening round was underway and fans continued to stream into the TPC Sawgrass, Commissioner Jay Monahan announced no fans would be allowed at tour events for the next month because of the fears over the new coronavirus outbreak.

It was a bold decision in light of other leagues either suspending play or canceling entire tournaments. And then the tour changed course.

“We did everything possible to create a safe environment for our players in order to continue the event throughout the weekend,” the tour said in a statement. “But at this point — and as the situation continues to rapidly change — the right thing to do for our players and our fans is to pause.” Monahan scheduled a new conference for Friday morning for additional details.

The Players Championship is the flagship event of the PGA Tour that offers a $15 million purse, the richest in golf. There was no immediate word whether it would be rescheduled.

Also shut down were the Valspar Championship next week in the Tampa Bay area, the Dell Match Play in Austin, Texas, and the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio. The Match Play is for the top 64 players available in the world ranking, and there was some concern not all could travel to Texas for the World Golf Championships event. The next scheduled event would be the Masters, set for April 9-12.

In golf, the LPGA Tour postponed its next three tournaments — two with title sponsors based in South Korea, another in Japan — with plans to reschedule later in the year. The final event was the LPGA’s first major of the year.

LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said on the Golf Channel telecast Thursday he was “fairly confident” the LPGA could play next week in Phoenix, and maybe even San Diego the following week without fans.

The cancellation brings an abrupt end to the most ambitious project ever by the PGA Tour. For the first time, every shot by every player in every round was available through streaming.

And now there’s no golf at all, at least until the Masters. If the Masters is held, defending champion Tiger Woods will not have played for seven weeks ahead of his title defense. Woods chose not to be at The Players Championship, saying his back was not ready.

Augusta National has a history of not rushing decisions. Even so, McIlroy found himself looking ahead at the Masters.

Source: Bahrain News Agency