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Friday, March 13, 2020

The Coronavirus Wins... For Now

After a day of rapidly changing developments in the COVID-19 virus saga, Golf -- capitalized here because I'm referring to all the governing bodies around the world -- decided that it's not safe after all to compete for at least a month. Here's Jay Monahan's brief statement, issued around 10pm ET Thursday night:
It is with regret that we are announcing the cancellation of THE PLAYERS Championship.

We have also decided to cancel all PGA TOUR events – across all of our Tours – in the coming weeks, through the Valero Texas Open.

We have pledged from the start to be responsible, thoughtful and transparent with our decision process. We did everything possible to create a safe environment for our players in order to continue the event throughout the weekend, and we were endeavoring to give our fans a much-needed respite from the current climate. But at this point – and as the situation continues to rapidly change – the right thing to do for our players and our fans is to pause.

We will be prepared to answer additional questions on Friday at 8 a.m.
Note that THE PLAYERS is cancelled -- it will not be rescheduled. The 2020 edition will simply be a footnote in golf history, a casualty of an unexpected pandemic.

While many are talking about this decision almost being too late, it's worth remembering that the situation in Florida changed dramatically in the hours after the Tour announced they intended to go on with Friday's round -- most notably, Disney World in Orlando was closed until the end of this month and the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state jumped nearly 50%. Jay Monahan did exactly what he said the Tour would do -- continue to monitor the rapidly-changing situation and make new decisions if necessary.

The next domino in line will be the Masters, as Valero is the last event before the Tour heads to Augusta. The LPGA had already axed the ANA Inspiration, hoping this will be merely a postponement until later in the year. I doubt the Masters team will wait until the last moment to make an announcement; that doesn't seem to be their style. I don't know how soon to expect their decision. But given that many players show up a week early to begin prep, I have trouble believing it will be much later than the first of April.

With all the sports cancellations over the last couple of days (NASCAR and Indycar being the two exceptions left) it will be interesting to see how television handles the newly-opened airtime. GC will likely rebroadcast older editions of the events that have been 'pre-empted' as well as golf movies, but CBS, NBC and their fellow stations will probably have to scramble a bit. March and April are heavy sports months in most years, so COVID-19 has thrown the entertainment industry a huge curve.

It has been said that "the door of history swings on small hinges." I guess hinges don't get much smaller than a virus. The big question is where will this door lead?

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