PONTE VEDRA BEACH — The PGA Tour announced on Thursday night that it has canceled the remainder of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass and that it has also canceled all tour events through the Valero Texas Open in three weeks due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision was made after Commissioner Jay Monahan said earlier on Thursday that the tournament would be played in its entirety but would take place without fans for the final three rounds at TPC Sawgrass. After gathering more information, however, the tour changed course and decided to shut down the event, first notifying players via text message before releasing a statement.
“It is with regret that we are announcing the cancellation of the Players Championship,” the tour said in its statement late Thursday night. “We have also decided to cancel all PGA Tour events—across all of our tours—in the coming weeks, through the Valero Texas Open.
“We have pledged from the start to be responsible, thoughtful and transparent with our decision process. 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.”
The PGA Tour went ahead and began the first round of the Players on schedule Thursday at TPC Sawgrass, allowing spectators on the grounds. Hideki Matsuyama, playing in the morning, shot an opening-round 63, matching the course scoring record, to take a two-stroke lead.
By noon, however, Monahan announced that the tour would prohibit fans for the final three rounds and that that policy would be in place moving forward during the next three events on the PGA Tour schedule—the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort outside Tampa, the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship in Austin, and the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio. These are the three events that are now canceled entirely.
As more sports leagues and events began to shut down amid growing coronavirus concerns, it became apparent, however, that the PGA Tour might soon follow suit.
“I believe the tour made the correct decision to both play the event [Thursday] and then cancel it,” Billy Horschel, a member of the tour’s Player Advisory Council who also lives a few miles from TPC Sawgrass, said when reached by phone Thursday night. “It’s a tough decision to make and then also cancel events through the Valero. But the tour has always done things with the best interest in mind for the players, caddies, volunteers, fans and anyone else involved with running an event.
“As much as I would love to continue to play the Players and the events following it, I have to trust the tour is doing what is best for everyone involved.”
The tour announced that it will address the media on Friday at 8 a.m. EDT.
The news to cancel the Players came a day after the NBA announced that it was suspending its season and the NCAA said it would play its men’s and women’s tournament basketball games without fans before saying it was canceling both tournaments entirely. The NCAA then announced it was also canceling all other winter and spring championships, including the men’s and women’s Division I golf championship scheduled for Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale in late May.
The LPGA Tour on Thursday announced it was postponing the first three events in the U.S., including its first major of 2020, the ANA Inspiration. This came after the tour had already canceled three previous event in Asia due to the coronavirus.
The Masters, meanwhile, scheduled for April 9-12 at Augusta National, is looking at contingency plans for this year’s tournament, which is also in jeopardy, multiple sources have told Golf Digest, while the PGA Championship, scheduled for May 14-17 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, remains for now on track to be played, according to the PGA of America.