The spread of the coronavirus and the fear it has created through the world has certainly crept into the world of professional golf.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan addressed the issue during his press conference earlier this week at The Players Championship in Florida and followed up after President Trump’s address to the nation Wednesday evening. Monahan held a second press conference Thursday and announced that starting Friday all PGA Tour events will be held without fans. The ban on fans will continue through the Valero Texas Open (April 2-5).
The decision will allow the Dell Technologies match play held at the end of this month in Austin, Texas to proceed as planned. The huge South by Southwest (SXSW) musical festival, one of the largest in the world that takes paces in Austin, has been cancelled. The opposite field golf event in the Dominican Republic has been postponed.
“That’s one of the tournaments that’s on the focus list, given its proximity to where we sit right now,” Monahan said of the Match Play. “We are fully planning on being in Austin, Texas, for the WGC-Dell Match Play. “But I would say, this thing is so dynamic that you just have to go hour-to-hour, day-to-day. But right now – we have every assurance that we’ll be in Austin for the event.”
In his Thursday press briefing, Monahan emphasized again that the situation is “fluid” and could change again.
Locally the big concern is The PGA Championship that is set for May 11-17 at the TPC at Harding Park in San Francisco. The city already has declared a ban on events of 1,000 or more people for the next two weeks, the PGA at this point appears touch and go. The PGA is operated by the PGA of America, not the PGA Tour, so it’s a different organization that will be making that decision.
The Golden State Warriors were prepared to play without fans this evening at Chase Center until the NBA abruptly postponed its season Wednesday night after Rudy Gobert of Salt Lake City tested positive for the virus. Salt Lake and the Mavericks were on the court in Dallas when the game was postponed and the season suspended.
The NBA decision followed the NCAA’s decision to play March Madness without fans. That will cover both the men’s and women’s tournaments as well as other championships this spring. The Pac-12 men’s tournament, which opened Wednesday in Las Vegas with fans, will be played with restricted audiences today through Saturday. Other conference tournaments have been cancelled.
Major League Soccer has suspended its season as well.
Earlier this week, the BNP Paribas men’s and women’s professional tennis tournament, a spring staple in Indian Wells in the California desert, was cancelled. In status, it ranks just below the majors, similar to this week’s Players championship.
Golf has a unique challenge because of its demographic, particularly among the volunteers who are critical to tournament operations. Most are retired and in the 60-and-up age-group that is at higher risk for coronavirus.
Monahan has been in discussions with the PGA of America regarding the event. One such rumor has the event moving to Sawgrass if San Francisco has any bans. Monahan played that off at this point.
“They are fully planning on proceeding with the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. But when you get in these extraordinary circumstances, you have to make yourself available to your partners and you have to really work as closely together as you ever have to help each other get through this,” said Monahan. “So, there is no plan at this point in time for the PGA Championship to be held here. It’s going to be held at TPC Harding Park.”