Players react to PGA TOUR's suspended season
March 13, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Players react to the cancellation of THE PLAYERS
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Rory McIlroy raised his hands slowly as he was approached by a small throng of reporters waiting at the front steps of the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse for reaction to the cancellation of THE PLAYERS Championship.
“Not too close,” he said with a hint of nervous humor, but also just enough seriousness as the group closed in to create a six-foot buffer.
The defending PLAYERS Champion will carry that title another year as the PGA TOUR cancelled TPC PLAYERS prior to the second round, as well as the upcoming Valspar Championship (March 19-22), World Golf Championships – Dell Technologies Match Play (March 25-29), Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship (March 26-29) and Valero Texas Open (April 2-5).
Augusta National also announced the Masters (April 9-12) will be postponed, meaning the PGA TOUR is on competitive hiatus until, at least the RBC Heritage, which currently due to start on April 16.
“It's the right decision,” McIlroy said. “A hundred percent. If in a few weeks' time this dies down and everything is okay, it's still the right decision.
The regining FedExCup champion wasn’t alone in his positive reaction to the decision.
“This is obviously a very serious deal, and I think it's only going to get worse right now, so it's best for us not to be playing golf. The main deal right now is for everybody to be safe,” U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland said.
“We had to do it. It would have looked horrible if we showed up and played today with every other sports leagues not playing. It probably would have been insensitive, so I'm glad the commissioner made the decision that he did. It's best for us. It's best for the fans and our families. Hopefully the world comes together and we get over this. This is a very serious deal.”
Jack Nicklaus, who hosts the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide in early June, was quick to praise the move.
“This has been a day and week of incredible concern, confusion and frustration throughout the sporting world, and, more important, our world in general. But as it relates to sport, I applaud the decisions made and the actions taken by all the sporting organizations and ruling bodies, and we hope they produce the intended result, which is simply to keep people safe and not expose them to significant health risks,” Nicklaus said via a statement.
“As an enormous sports fan myself, I hope the passionate fan bases behind every sport are able to pause, take a step back, and reflect on the importance behind the decisions made. Until this COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic is resolved and until things resume with some normalcy, my friends, please be safe, be smart and stay healthy.”
Commissioner Jay Monahan discusses cancellation of THE PLAYERS
Jon Rahm, who originally was on board to keep playing, said he realized the cautionary action was the right move as he read and heard more about the virus.
“There's bigger problem on our hands. People are getting affected; people are having problems. Like I've said many times, I'm pretty scared because there's quite a bit of people in my family with asthma, and my 85-year-old grandma being one of them, which is a direct target,” he said.
“And there's nothing I can do because I can't go home, I can't come back. All we can all try to do is resume our lives as normal and try to be as clean as possible, wash our hands. I've been up since early in the morning, and I can't believe how many times I've washed my hands already and I haven't left my room. I'm just trying to be clean and do our part as citizens to improve this.”
Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger was due to get on the last Austrian Airlines flight back to Vienna on Friday afternoon before travel bans start to take effect. He had made the decision to get the flight even before the Masters announced a postponement, knowing he may miss it as a result. He intended to do grocery shopping and other tasks for his mother and grandmother so they did not need to be put at unnecessary risk.
“I think it's the right move, what Jay Monahan and the PGA TOUR have done going forward. Obviously everyone here would have loved to see some golf, but in the bigger picture I'm in constant contact with family and relatives in Europe, and it's pretty bad there,” Wiesberger added.
“I'm looking forward to going back home and being with them and help out over there… but it's unprecedented times. We all need to kind of stick together and do the right thing for everyone, for the elderly, to not have anyone affected that doesn't need to be, and therefore I think it's good we're packing up today and kind of going home and try to have as minimal a social contact as possible and try not to spread it any further.”
Zach Johnson said it was a chance for everyone to take stock.
“I didn't sleep well last night, but it wasn't because I wasn't competing. I didn't sleep last night because it's just the unfortunate scenario we're in,” Johnson said. “I think obviously it's a time to reflect and just really understand, it's just golf. It's just golf. It's just a sport. So it pales in comparison to what we could be combating at some point.”
With no concrete return date, given the ever-changing situation across the globe, there was uncertainty from players as to how they would spend the next few weeks. Most said they’d focus on their loved ones while trying to remain relatively sharp with a little practice. Others, including Jason Day, said they’d use it as recovery time from nagging injuries.
“We'll go home and relax a little bit, take this as a little bit of a mini offseason in a way,” Rickie Fowler said. “But the biggest thing is obviously we don't want this to turn into something bigger than what it is and what it can be.”
“This is one of these things where we just have to wait and see. It's so uncertain, you're obviously going to still keep playing golf, but you're going out there practicing not knowing what you're practicing for,” McIlroy added.
“I was supposed to have my coach, Michael Bannon, fly out next week and we were going to spend some time together, and that's probably not going to happen, him coming from Ireland. Probably have time just to spend some time at home, evaluate the situation, and see where we go.”
In terms of when players expected they’d feel comfortable to return to tournament golf, McIlroy mirrored most when he said he’d be guided by the health experts.
“Whenever the powers that be say it's safe to do so,” McIlroy said of a return date. “All you can do is follow the guidelines from the CDC and from the people that really know about this thing.”
For more on the coronavirus disease, please visit the Center for Disease Control’s information page.