PGA TOUR to Continue Contesting Events Without Fans in Attendance
Stan Badz/PGA TOUR via Getty Images. Pictured: PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan addresses the media regarding the developing Corona Virus pandemic.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The show will go on for the PGA TOUR at this week’s Players Championship and beyond, but it will continue in relative seclusion.
After allowing fans inside the gates for the opening round, PGA TOUR commissioner Jay Monahan announced Thursday that due to coronavirus concerns, the final three rounds will be contested without any spectators in attendance, as well as all ensuing tournaments through the Valero Texas Open and with a contingency for more events afterward.
One day after the NBA suspended its season and many other professional and amateur sporting events have been canceled, Monahan revealed there were internal discussions as to whether the PGA TOUR should make a similar decision.
“We contemplated everything,” he said. “We feel like based on where we are right now in St. Johns County, we feel that this is a safe environment in which to continue to move forward with a tournament of 144 players with limited personnel on-site, and we’re comfortable that this is the right path forward, but that is something that we’ll continue to consider as we go forward.”
It should be noted that the first positive case of COVID-19 here in St. Johns Country was detected Wednesday night, less than 12 hours before the first tee time of the opening round.
Monahan said the PGA TOUR’s decision to continue competition without fans was made after he personally spoke with President Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday morning.
“We needed to look at where we are now, and we needed to think about what are the implications in the weeks ahead and what are all the different ways that this situation could develop,” the commissioner continued. “We felt like as hard as it is with this being our biggest championship, it was the right time to lead, to make a decision that we think is the right decision, not only for this week, but in the weeks that follow, and that’s something that candidly we debated through the night and all morning long.
“I want to stress that while we’re debating it, the beautiful thing about where we were based on the planning we had is we were able to call on all the right people to get really good informed decisions as it relates to the virus itself, but also people across our industry that we know are also going to be affected by this decision.”
Monahan added that “essential people” — including players’ families, support staffs and media — would still be allowed at The Players and other upcoming PGA TOUR events.
Not every upcoming PGA TOUR event will be contested as scheduled. The Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, an alternate-field event held during the same week as the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship, has been postponed due to recent governmental travel advisories.
The PGA TOUR does not own jurisdiction over the Masters, as decisions regarding next month’s major championship will be made by Augusta National, however he did disclose that he’s been in “frequent discussion” with members from that club.
Golf Digest and Golf.com have both reported that Augusta National is prepared to limit or completely prohibit patrons from next month’s Masters Tournament, which would be an unprecedented decision for the year’s first major championship.
There remains concern that any international players who have qualified for the event, but aren’t competing in this week’s Players, could have trouble getting to Augusta, based on President Trump’s recently announced travel ban.
Already, the European Tour has canceled or postponed five tournaments, while the LPGA has done the same with three, each of which is based internationally.
Prior to the opening round, Lucas Glover posted a tweet that seemed critical of the PGA TOUR’s decision to play the round with spectators.
“What about all these people, slammed in here together, breathing on each other, handing us their hats to sign?” he later asked, adding that he agreed with the decision to prohibit fans moving forward. “I thought I’d wake up this morning to a different tune. That’s what spurred that tongue-in-cheek tweet this morning.”
Meanwhile, C.T. Pan was the only non-injury withdrawal from The Players on Thursday, later tweeting: “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.”