GOLF fans across the UK were shocked to wake up to news that the PGA Tour had cancelled The Players Championship after the first round had been completed.
The decision was made in the early hours UK time after play had finished for the day at Sawgrass with Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama leading after a superb nine-under par 63.
After what had been a bad for the British players – defending champion Rory McIlroy had to battle to get back to level par to end the day in a large tie for 83rd – the PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan made the shock announcement that ALL PGA Tour events were being cancelled up until the Texas Open, in early April.
The decision – in reaction to the declaration of the Coronavirus epidemic being declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisations – sent more shockwaves around the world of golf.
A week ago, the European Tour cancelled this week’s Magical Kenya Open, and earlier this week the Hero Indian Open – scheduled for the end of the month – was also postponed.
The European Tour has also cancelled the Czech Masters in Prague, in August, and two Challenge Tour events in Slovakia and the Czech Republic in June and July – the latter two tournaments have the same sponsor.
Mr Monaghan had said at a press conference after the start of Thursday’s play that The Players would continue on Friday with no spectators being admitted to the course at Sawgrass.
But later that evening after hastily arranged emergency discussions, the decision was made to call a halt to the tournament immediately.
Mr Monaghan spoke on Friday morning at the PGA Tour’s Florida HQ at Ponte Vedra.
He said: “When you looked to that moment in time where you have two theme parks that are located between Jacksonville and Tampa cancel, to me that really was the thing that was the final thing that we had heard that said, you know what, even though we feel like we have a safe environment and we’ve done all the right things, we can’t proceed – and it’s not right to proceed.”
A number of international players in the strongest field at a PGA Tour event annually, approached the PGA Tour with concerns after Disney and Busch Gardens had announced they were closing to the public, because of the threat posed by Coronavirus (COVID 19).
Monahan added: “And when you use ‘doing the right thing’ as the litmus test, to me that was the final – those two things together were really the things that drove the decision.”
Some players had brought their families to Florida who were spending time at the two large theme parks – and were also concerned about travel arrangements, with more restrictions being imposed by governments, after the President Donald Trump imposed a ban on people entering America from European countries.
Defending the PGA Tour’s decision to change its policy during the build-up and start to The Players, its chief said they were making decisions in real-time in response to a rapidly-changing and escalating worldwide situation.
Monaghan had said when announcing the spectator ban from Friday: “This is a difficult situation, one with consequences that impact our players, fans, and the communities in which we play,
“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.”
As golf fans digested that not only would the 2020 Players Championship not be rescheduled later in the year, the next four tournaments were also being halted as golf joined basketball and ice hockey in suspending their seasons.
Events hit by Coronavirus outbreak
THE decision to abandon The Players Championship took the number of professional golf events now cancelled in 2020 to 25 – including the first LPGA Major of the year – the Ana Inspiration.
The events cancelled so far are:–
The Players Championship (Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida March 11-14): Cancelled
Valspar Championship (Palm Harbor, Florida, March 19-22): Cancelled
WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play (Austin, Texas, March 25-29): Cancelled
Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship (Dominican Republic, March 26-29): Cancelled
Valero Texas Open (April 2-5): Cancelled
Magical Kenya Open (Nairobi, March 5-8): Cancelled
Hero Indian Open (New Delhi, March 19-22): Postponed
Maybank Championship (Malaysia, April 16-19): Postponed
Volvo China Open (Shenzhen, April 23-26): Postponed
Czech Masters (Prague, August 20-23): Cancelled
D+D Real Czech Challenge (June 4-7): Cancelled
D+D Real Slovakia Challenge (July 2-5): Cancelled
Honda LPGA Thailand (Pattaya, February 20-23): Cancelled
HSBC Women’s World Championship (Singapore, February 27-March 1): Cancelled
Blue Bay LPGA (China, March 5-8): Cancelled
Founders Cup (Phoenix, Arizona, March 19-22): Postponed
Kia Classic (Carlsbad, California, March 26-29): Postponed
ANA Inspiration (Rancho Mirage, California, April 2-5): Postponed
Korn Ferry Tour:
Chitimacha Louisiana Open – Savannah Golf Championship (March 19-April 5): Cancelled
IOA Championship (Beaumont, California, March 27-29): Postponed
Windsor Golf Classic (Windsor, California, April 2-4): Postponed
Women’s Amateur Asia Pacific (Thailand, February 12-15): Rescheduled October 7-10
PGA Tour Series-China
Two qualifying events postponed – season reduced from 14 to 10 events
PGA Tour Latinoamerica
Buenos Aires Championship (Argentina, March 26-29): Cancelled
Termas de Rio Hondo (Argentina, April 2-5): Cancelled
Taiwan’s C T Pan: Why I withdrew
TAIWAN’S C T Pan withdrew from The Players Championship before play began this week.
He said on Twitter: “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.
“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.”
Pelley: Travel bans hit Hero Indian Open
EUROPEAN Tour chief executive Keith Pelley (pictured) explained the reasoning behind the decision to call off the Hero Indian Open as the country’s government introduced travel restrictions.
He said: “In these difficult global circumstances, we fully understand and appreciate the recent restrictions introduced in respect of travel into India.
“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.”
The Hero Indian Open is co-sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours meaning organisers faced having players from some countries being unable to play despite being entered into the tournament, which was won in 2019 by Stephen Gallacher.