By Steve Keating
PONTE VEDRA, Fla (Reuters) – The PGA Tour is in excellent health, commissioner Jay Monahan said on Tuesday but the coronavirus epidemic is threatening to disrupt some of golf’s biggest tournaments.
Sports from Formula One to tennis have canceled events due to the coronavirus outbreak, but the PGA Tour has so far resisted similar action for any of its U.S. stops.
Monahan, however, conceded the environment is “dynamic” and could force a rethink on the status of both the WGC Dell Match Play in Austin and the PGA Championship in San Francisco.
The WGC is under particular scrutiny given the tournament is just two weeks away and the South by Southwest music, technology and film festival in Austin has already been postponed over concerns about the spreading coronavirus outbreak.
Monahan confirmed that the WGC is an event on which the PGA and its coronavirus task force are focused, but said he expects it to go ahead, hinting it could be played without any fans in attendance.
“I would say that right now, that’s one of the tournaments that’s on the focus list, given its proximity to where we sit right here,” Monahan told reporters in a wide-ranging news conference at the TPC Sawgrass ahead of the Players Championship.
“We’re all in and making certain that we’re able to operate that event.
“Now, there are various iterations or there are different ways of operating an event based on the circumstances in terms of fan involvement but we’re still confident that we’d be able to operate the event.”
The WTA and ATP canceled the Indian Wells tournament, one of their biggest events, on Sunday on the advice of health officials after a single new coronavirus case was confirmed in nearby Coachella Valley.
Meanwhile, the Players Championship, widely considered as golf’s fifth major, will go ahead as scheduled this week at TPC Sawgrass despite 15 confirmed cases in Florida and two deaths.
Last week Augusta National Golf Club said the Masters, the year’s first major scheduled for April 9-12, will proceed.
There is, however, already talk the May 14-17 PGA Championships at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco could be moved to Ponte Vedra.
“There is no plan at this point in time for the PGA Championship to be held here,” said Monahan. “It’s going to be held at TPC Harding Park.
“But I would just pledge to you that in all of our tournaments week to week, we’ve really got to listen and respond to the real information that we’re receiving on the ground.”
The cloud cast by the coronavirus outbreak took some of the glow off a new nine-year rights deal announced by the PGA Tour that will pour millions into their bank account.
“It’s clear to me that we have a winning formula,” said Monahan. “We’re growing in virtually every metric, and it’s not because that winning formula remains the same.
“The news that we’ve just talked about, securing $12 billion in revenue through 2030, the strength and security and foundation of this Tour has never been stronger, so that’s what we’re focused on.”