PGA Tour con­tin­ues play but will bar fans start­ing Fri­day

The Kansas City Star - - Sports - BY GARRY SMITS Florida Times-Union (Jack­sonville, Fla.)

The most fre­quent word used by PGA Tour play­ers on Thurs­day was “strange.”

Strange to hear the news that the coro­n­avirus had prompted ev­ery other ma­jor pro­fes­sional and col­lege sport in Amer­ica to ei­ther can­cel or post­pone com­pe­ti­tion.

Strange to think of play­ing in the Tour’s sig­na­ture event with no fans at the Play­ers Sta­dium Course at TPC Saw­grass lin­ing the fair­ways or sit­ting be­hind the banked wa­ter haz­ards, wait­ing for good shots, and bad.

Strange to be play­ing golf at all.

“No­body is tak­ing this lightly any more,” said Lu­cas Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open cham­pion.

The news was stun­ning but af­ter a whirl­wind chain of events on Wed­nes­day night, hardly sur­pris­ing.

PGA Tour com­mis­sioner Jay Mon­a­han an­nounced dur­ing a noon news con­fer­ence on Thurs­day that over the next four weeks, be­gin­ning with the sec­ond round of The Play­ers Cham­pi­onship on Fri­day, the Tour would con­duct its com­pe­ti­tion with no fans present.

Only play­ers, cad­dies, player sup­port, their fam­i­lies, es­sen­tial PGA Tour and TPC Saw­grass staff, vol­un­teers and me­dia will be present. The fan lock­out, with hopes of help­ing com­bat the spread of the coro­n­avirus, ap­plied to the PGA Tour, PGA Tour Cham­pi­ons and the Korn Ferry Tour.

In ad­di­tion to The Play­ers, the Valspar Cham­pi­onship next week in Palm Har­bor, the WGC Dell Tech­nolo­gies Match Play in Austin, Texas, and the Valero Texas Open in San An­to­nio will be af­fected. The Tour buys an­other week af­ter that be­cause the Mas­ters is sched­uled to be played at the Au­gusta Na­tional Golf Club on April 9-12.

Mas­ters and be­yond: Mon­a­han said the Tour hasn’t made plans be­yond the Mas­ters. The Au­gusta Na­tional Golf Club will make its own de­ci­sion, since it’s a pri­vate club that owns the tour­na­ment. Mon­a­han also said that given travel re­stric­tions, a Tour event in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic that was sched­uled to be played the same week as the Match Play, is post­poned.

Mon­a­han said he ar­rived at the de­ci­sion af­ter con­fer­ring with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Gov. Ron DeSan­tis, lo­cal health au­thor­i­ties in the mar­kets where the tour­na­ments are be­ing played and his “busi­ness unit,” a ded­i­cated staff of PGA Tour em­ploy­ees who were charged two weeks ago with han­dling is­sues re­lated to the virus.

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