They played a round of golf on Thursday. And then they put the clubs in the bag for the next three weeks — and perhaps longer.
The Players Championship has been cancelled after one round, as are PGA Tour tournaments for the next three weeks, the PGA Tour said in a release late Thursday night, as global concerns over the coronavirus have spiked.
“We have pledged from the start to be responsible, thoughtful and transparent with our decision process,” the statement said. “We did everything possible to create a safe environment for our players in order to continue the event throughout the weekend, and we were endeavoring to give our fans a much-needed respite from the current climate. 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.”
Along with the remainder of the Players Championship, tournaments now canceled are next week’s Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla., the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio at the start of April. The next tournament on the schedule is the Masters from April 9-12 in Augusta, Ga., the season’s first major, and Augusta National Golf Club will announce any potential decision separately.
The PGA Tour’s move followed a flurry of cancellations and postponements across professional and amateur sports over just the past few days. The NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS and ATP Tour have all suspended their seasons, with NBA players Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz being infected with the virus. The NCAA canceled all remaining winter and spring championships, including its men’s basketball tournament. And NASCAR and IndyCar will hold their events without spectators.
Those decisions and the Tour’s statement suggest that any decision is fluid at best, leaving the status of additional tournaments, including the season’s four majors, in doubt.
“Stay safe friends… We are now in a suspension through Valero Texas Open on the pgatour. We will know more from the Masters soon enough as well. Let’s hope this will pass soon without effecting too many more people.…” tweeted Ian Poulter, who shot a 2-under 70 on Thursday.
In less than 24 hours, the PGA Tour said it would play the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., on Thursday, decided to play the tournament without fans and then finally canceled it.
Just after midnight on Thursday, the PGA Tour released a statement saying “the Players Championship will continue as scheduled, although we will absolutely continue to review recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and local health administrations. This is obviously a very fluid situation that requires constant review, communication and transparency, and we are dedicated to all three aspects.”
At 7:40 a.m. Brian Harman, Rory Sabbatini, Sepp Straka teed off from the first hole, Russell Henley, J.J. Spaun Denny McCarthy started off the 10th hole and fans entered the gates at TPC Sawgrass.
Right around the time that Hideki Matsuyama completed his course-record 63 for the first-round lead, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said the remainder of the Players and the next three tournaments would be played without fans.
“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 have had a team in place that’s been carefully monitoring and assessing the situation and its implications for several weeks.”
Throughout the day, reactions ran the gamut, except for one — uncertainty.
“Different,” Phil Mickelson said after his round. “There’s not as many people as normal. I’ve never played a Tour event like we were going to play tomorrow with no fans. It will be a very weird experience, and I feel bad for the people here that have supported this tournament for so many decades to not be able to come on out. But this is a pretty serious thing that we need to do all we can to make sure that people don’t lose lives over it that we can prevent.”
“I think it’s a hard one because you look at volunteers out here and a lot of volunteers are in their 60s and 70s and retired and you don’t want someone that’s got the virus that passes it on to them and then they’re susceptible, and for me, like I, my mother’s got respiratory issues and I certainly don’t want to get something and pass it on to her and all of a sudden there’s some sort of complication,” top-ranked Rory McIlroy said.
“So it’s scary time, and I think that the PGA Tour have made a step in the right direction and I think we just have to play it by ear and take it day by day, and if someone said to me yesterday, today’s overreaction could look like tomorrow’s underreaction. So just got to take it day by day and see where this thing goes.”
To receive GOLF’s all-new newsletters, subscribe for free here.