After all of chaos on Thursday, following the cancellation of March Madness and the suspensions of the MLB, NHL, NBA and MLS seasons, there was still one major sport playable in the rough.
The PGA was moving forward. With fans lining its galleries, the first round of THE PLAYERS Championship was going on with every intention of finishing the tournament on Sunday.
There had been provisions made, of course. No spectators would be allowed beginning with Friday’s second round, a concession in line with the original plans other major sports had laid out for themselves.
But after the final golfer holed-out, the PGA came to the inevitable decision that it needed to follow suit.
“Based on the rapidly changing situation, THE PLAYERS Championship has been canceled,” the tour said in a text notifying players Thursday night.
The tour also canceled the next three events on the PGA Tour schedule: the Valspar Championship, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, the Valero Texas Open.
And then on Friday, it announced The Masters, from April 9-12 in Augusta, Ga., the season’s first major, will be temporarily postponed.
“Ultimately, the health and well-being of everyone associated with these events and the citizens of the Augusta community led us to this decision,” Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, said in a statement. “We hope this postponement puts us in the best position to safely host the Masters Tournament and our amateur events at some later date.”
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was scheduled to hold a news conference Friday morning.
The PGA was originally confident it could proceed. On Thursday, Monahan had conversation with a number of high-ranking officials, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. At that point, everyone seemed on board. But the situation began to change very quickly.
“THE PLAYERS Championship will continue as scheduled, although we will absolutely continue to review recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and local health administrations,” the tour said. “This is obviously a very fluid situation that requires constant review, communication and transparency, and we are dedicated to all three aspects.
The first counterpoint was provided by Rory McIlroy. In a press conference before THE PLAYERS Championship began, he called for wide-ranging testing of everyone involved in the tour. He said if anyone tested positive, things needed to be shut down.
“I saw there’s commercial labs now that are testing at some capacity, I guess, and for us to keep playing on the PGA Tour, all the tour players and people who are involved need to get tested and make sure no one’s got it,” McIlroy said.”Because everyone knows you can have it and not have symptoms and pass it on to someone who’s more susceptible to getting very ill from it.
“I think it’s a hard one because you look at volunteers out here and a lot of volunteers are in their 60s and 70s 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.
“So it’s scary time, and I think that the PGA Tour have made a step in the right direction and I think we just have to play it by ear and take it day by day, and if someone said to me yesterday, today’s overreaction could look like tomorrow’s underreaction. So just got to take it day by day and see where this thing goes.”
Even though fans were allowed to watch the first-round, the galleries at the TPC were very thin. And it proved disconcerting to the players.
“There’s not as many people as normal, Phil Mickelson told Golf.com. “I feel bad for the people here that have supported this tournament for so many decades to not be able to come on out. But this is a pretty serious thing that we need to do all we can to make sure that people don’t lose lives over it that we can prevent.”
Much like the other major sports, the PGA’s decision to suspend play through The Masters is simply the first step. If there is no improvement with progression of the virus in the United States by the third week of April, the tour will likely announce additional cancellations.
“Stay safe friends… We are now in a suspension through Valero Texas Open on the pgatour. We will know more from the Masters soon enough as well. Let’s hope this will pass soon without effecting too many more people.…” tweeted Ian Poulter.