Fans barred from PGA Tour events for rest of Players Championship, next three weeks
The fans who sprinkled TPC Sawgrass Thursday morning for the Players Championship couldn’t have realized how special they were. They were the last fans to attend a PGA Tour event for the month of March.
Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced that, while the Tour will still hold events in the wake of the coronavirus, fans will not be allowed onto the grounds for the next three tournaments (through the Valero Texas Open), beginning with the second round of this week’s Players Championship on Friday. Monahan issued his statement to the press on Thursday at the Tour’s flagship event. This comes in the wake of the NBA, MLS and ATP suspending its play for the time being. Numerous NCAA basketball conference championships were canceled Thursday.
“There have been a number of announcements over the last couple days, and that was one that certainly got everyone’s attention,” Monahan said of the NBA suspension. Monahan was pressed for differences between golf and other major sports leagues, and ultimately said the Tour is comfortable continuing play. Monahan mentioned he recently spoke with President Donald Trump and Florida governor Ron DeSantis about the issue.
“Both the White House and the Governor’s office have been and are supportive of the precautionary measures we have taken to this point,” Monahan said.
One event in particular was postponed: The Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship. That event was scheduled opposite the WGC-Match Play, but will rescheduled for a later date, with discussions to begin as soon as Thursday afternoon. “We are disappointed the event is postponed BUT fully understand and support the decisions that have been made and stand by the statement of the Commissioner,” tournament director Jay Overton said in an email. “This was a very difficult decision but the correct one in view of the Worldwide reaction the Virus has generated!”
The PGA Tour might not be alone among golf’s governing bodies. The European Tour has postponed a number of events. It was also reported Thursday morning that Augusta National is preparing for a much different Masters, including the potential of a canceled Par-3 Contest, closed practice rounds and a limit on patrons allowed inside the gates. An announcement from ANGC is expected in the next week.
The Tour’s announcement is not a complete surprise, though fans were allowed on the course Thursday morning. As GOLF senior writer Dylan Dethier reported from the grounds, a sense of uncertainty loomed throughout the morning among fans and players. The Tour had posted signs alerting all that a no-autograph policy had been instituted.
“We contemplated everything,” Monahan said. “We feel like, based on where we are right now, in St. Johns County, this is a safe environment to move forward with a tournament of 144 players.”
For the foreseeable future, professional golf will look different. As of earlier this week, most all governing bodies were standing pat and “monitoring” the situation. With four men’s majors, five women’s majors and an Olympic games taking place in the next six months, the 2020 schedule is packed with meaningful golf events. For now, they may look a lot like the Zozo Championship, which played out its third round with no fans (due to weather conditions) in October.
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