PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan four PGA Tour events will be played this week, but no fans will be allowed to attend due to the coronavirus outbreak. Monahan held a news conference at The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, after the start of the first round, and said Thursday will be the last day golfers will play in front of galleries for at least the next month.
The next three rounds of The Players Championship, the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida, the WGC Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas, and the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, Texas, will be played without fans. The tour did cancel the Corales Puntacana Open, which is played opposite the WGC event because it is held in the Dominican Republic.
The Masters is played the week after the Valero Texas Open and is not controlled by the PGA Tour. Officials at the major championship’s site, Augusta National, have not yet commented on what they plan to do.
PGA Tour Taking Coronavirus Seriously
Monahan said he and PGA Tour staff debated on what to do about the coronavirus crisis late into Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. He said he spoke to President Trump, as well as medical specialists. The tour concluded that, because the golfers are outdoors and not in an enclosed arena like the NBA and NHL, who suspended their seasons earlier today, it would be safe to compete without any fans.
“Our team is in constant communication with local health authorities in each market in which our tournaments are played, and we are tracking and monitoring the health information provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), in addition to the travel advisories provided by the U.S. State Department,” Monahan said. “Both the White House and the (Florida) governor’s office have been and are supportive of the precautionary measures we have taken to this point.”
Fans attended Thursday’s first round of The Players Championship, but signs were posted telling fans PGA Tour golfers would not be signing autographs due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Impact on Golfers, Other Tours
Monahan told reporters the decision wasn’t made lightly.
“This is a difficult situation, one with consequences that impact our players, fans, and the communities in which we play,” Monahan said. “As I said earlier this week, we’ve had a team in place that has been carefully monitoring and assessing the situation and its implications for several weeks.”
Golfer C.T. Pan of Taiwan withdrew from The Players Championship, posting on Twitter of the news.
“I chose to withdraw from the Players Championship because my wife and I want to protect ourselves from the risk of exposure to the coronavirus,” Pan wrote. “We are fine and our families are fine. Our lifestyle is like a circus, traveling from one place to another. We believe this is a time to exercise caution by not playing this week.”
The European Tour has also been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The tour has canceled four events, including this week’s Hero Indian Open in New Delhi, India.
Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour, told reporters the global pandemic necessitated canceling events.
“In these difficult global circumstances, we fully understand and appreciate the recent restrictions introduced in respect of travel into India,” Pelley said. “As these new measures now prevent many members of both tours being able to play in the tournament, everyone involved in the staging of the Hero Indian Open felt it was the correct decision to postpone the tournament.”