Historic City News readers headed to Ponte Vedra Beach today and planning to spend an enjoyable TPC weekend at Sawgrass will need to make other plans, according to a press release from tournament organizers and the PGA Tour.
After deciding Wednesday night to kick off the first round of competition, tournament organizers said at noon yesterday that the tournament will close to fans starting Friday.
“We will continue The Players with essential personnel only, and we will be in direct conversations with our vendors, broadcasters, media, player support groups, and essential volunteers, to provide instructions,” said PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan.
The decision came suddenly: Shortly after midnight Wednesday, the PGA Tour had released a statement saying it is “aware of rapidly changing developments regarding COVID-19.”
“With the information currently available, 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 earlier statement said. “This is obviously a very fluid situation that requires constant review, communication and transparency, and we are dedicated to all three aspects.”
The ban on fans applies to all PGA Tour events, starting with The Players and continuing through the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio. It is unclear if the fan ban will still be in place for the Masters, which is scheduled for April 9 through 12 in Augusta, Georgia.
Cases of the new coronavirus have been diagnosed in St Johns County, as well as Nassau County and in nearby St. Mary’s, Georgia. Before The Players kicked off, organizers said they had added 30 additional hand-sanitizing stations at all restrooms, each of which includes four dispensers, according to The Players’ website. Additionally, attendees were allowed to bring their own hand sanitizer into the event. Fans were warned that some golfers may decline to sign autographs out of an abundance of caution.
In any event, the decision to close the tournament to spectators came in the wake of other competitions being canceled or played in empty stadiums.