For the first time since 9/11, a PGA TOUR event has been canceled. THE PLAYERS Championship was halted at 9:50 p.m. Thursday, March 12.
In addition, for the first time since WWII, several additional PGA TOUR events, the Valspar in Tampa, and the Dell Match Play tournament in Austin, Texas, have also been cancelled.
The PGA TOUR is not alone. The Masters has announced a postponement of this year’s tournament, but they have indicated that they will hold it at some time later in the year. The others just will not take place in 2020.
The closing of the theme parks -- Disney World and Universal -- in Orlando was the tipping point for the PGA TOUR in making their decision.
“When you looked to that moment in time where you have two theme parks that are located between Jacksonville and Tampa cancel, to me that really was the final thing that we had heard that said, you know what, even though we feel like we have a safe environment and we've done all the right things, we can't proceed,” PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan said early Friday morning.
Monahan, who lost a lot of sleep last week, had been on the phone with President Trump, the CDC, Governor DeSantis, local government officials and others prior to the decision to play Thursday. At that time, it was felt that because the tournament was outside and because it was spread over 400 acres at the TPC Sawgrass facility, it was not a health hazard for the tournament to continue. However, as the days wore on, as other organizations cancelled their events, as more and more players had concerns, it became a bigger issue to continue with THE PLAYERS. Then late in the day on Thursday, Disney World and Universal decided to close.
“It's gut-wrenching. when you're affecting so many people's livelihoods, that weighs heavily on you,” Monahan admitted. “As you look into the rest of the season, tournaments in every market are well on their way towards planning their events, to fundraising. You've got charities, just like we have here, that are counting on those events. And we feel like it was our opportunity to potentially play this week.”
While some charities are going to be negatively impacted in the short term, others like Feeding Northeast Florida, which has an affiliation with Billy Horschel, got a bonus in actual food. THE PLAYERS was ready to feed 200,000 people last week, but now that charity will have an inflow of products that will help people in need.
Regarding charities, Monahan said the PGA TOUR would be working with the tournament Red Coats and Blue Coats to identify some things that could be done for local and regional charities that are affected by the cancellation.
“We take our commitment to this community very, very seriously, and we're going to get to the work at hand to make sure that we continue to help our community as everybody tries to make their way forward here,” Monahan said.
Several of the players had comments late Thursday and early Friday morning regarding the situation.
“You keep hearing that word that it's a fluid situation, that things are changing at a fast pace,” former PLAYERS champ Webb Simpson said. “When I showed up here on Monday, it (cancellation) wasn't even a thought.”
He and the group he was playing with on Thursday found out that no fans were going to be out on Friday when they were on the 4th hole in round one. Then that changed. Now he’s headed back to Charlotte to try to stay sharp for whenever golf begins again.
Rory McIlroy didn’t receive notice about the cancellation until Friday morning. He was asleep when the announcement was made.
“It's going to get worse before it gets better,” McIlroy said about COVID19. “”It's a hard one because you look at volunteers out here and a lot of volunteers are in their 60s and 70's 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.”
“I think the main deal right now is for everybody to be safe,” Gary Woodland added to the conversation. “I think this gets a little worse before it gets better, so hopefully once this starts to get better, we can make decisions and we can get back to golf then.”
“I don't think there was really any other way,” Bryson DeChambeau said. “We're trying to do our best to show our appreciation and respect to the sponsors of this event and people that work for the event.”
“Life is a lot bigger than sports and golf,” Rickie Fowler said. “So, to have some tournaments canceled or postponed, it is what it is. There's a lot bigger things than us and golf. It's about everyone being healthy and in a good place.”
“I think it was expected,” Jon Rahm said Friday morning. “I guess all we can do now is try to be as safe as possible and hope it goes through quickly, and you know, get to play as soon as possible or just get through the virus as early as possible.”
Rahm has family members who have respiratory issues, and even before play started, he expressed a concern for their safety with regard to the virus.
Several of the players suggested that they should be tested, but as Monahan pointed out, it might not be possible to do that.
“Right now, there aren't enough tests out there. And so, the responsible thing to do is to make certain that the tests are being used appropriately,” he said. “So, we pulled back off of that. And if anybody in our ecosystem, our players, our employees, anybody is feeling like they're in any way compromised, we'd certainly recommend and help them do anything we can to help them get tested, but right now that's certainly not the case.”
Perhaps the best statement by anyone regarding the cancellation of the tournament came from Rory McIlroy when he said, “Today's overreaction could look like tomorrow's underreaction. So just got to take it day by day and see where this thing goes.”
Ticket Refund Info
THE PLAYERS Championship will refund tickets that were not possible to use. A link on the tournament website details the process, which varies depending on the type of ticket.
Photos by Craig O’Neal