PGA Tour

Worried McIlroy takes wait and see attitude as golf shuts down

Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)

World number one Rory McIlroy and other top golfers on Friday supported the decision to cancel The Players Championship and all US PGA Tour events for a month due to the coronavirus outbreak.

US PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who first said events would continue without spectators, changed his decision in the wake of shutdowns Thursday by nearly every major US sports group and called off the Players and the next three weeks of scheduled tournaments.

"Very disappointed to suspend the PGA season," Monahan said Friday. "We tried to be as thoughtful as possible during this dynamic and challenging time.

"It ultimately became a matter of when, not if, we would need to call it a day."

Barely two hours after Monahan spoke, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley announced the Masters would be postponed as well, delaying the traditional first major tournament of each year.

Augusta National typically closes during the summer so it's likely looking at a fall date after the US PGA 2019-20 season playoffs, perhaps after the Ryder Cup in late September.

For now, the next possible event on the PGA schedule would be the Heritage on 16 to 19 April in South Carolina.

Asked when tour events might resume, Monahan said, "Give us a little bit of time... We're going to make sure we protect the health and safety of all our constituents as we make that decision."

Four-time major winner McIlroy, last year's Players winner, supported the PGA shutdown and said his coach probably wouldn't come from Ireland next week as planned as he prepares to be idled.

"Spend some time at home and evaluate the situation and see where we go. It's one of these things where we have to wait and see," McIlroy said.

"You're not going to stop playing golf. You're going out there practicing, not knowing what you're practicing for."

Asked about when golf should resume, McIlroy replied: "Whenever the powers that be say it's safe to do so."

The outbreak, which has claimed lives worldwide with uncertainty over how many more might be infected, has made competitions secondary.

"Sport is insignificant compared to what we're dealing with." said Northern Ireland's 2010 US Open champion Graeme McDowell.

"We're talking about a major global problem. At the end of the day, professional sport means nothing in the lands of making the world safe again."

Monahan shut the PGA down after the NBA, NHL and other major US sports events were called off.

"It would be horrible for us to be the only sports league playing and a terribly insensitive look," reigning US Open champion Gary Woodland said.

McIlroy said on Thursday he feared by playing he might catch coronavirus and pass it along to elderly relatives or volunteers.

"It's a scary time," McIlroy said. "You have just got to take it day by day and see where this thing goes."

Monahan said it was a concern he heard from other players as well.

"That uncertainty led us not to play," he said. "The fact somebody is asking questions like that is something you have to consider."

Monahan said there was no chance to finish the Players later in the year and golfers who played Thursday would evenly divide a half-purse of $7.5 million.

"With all that's going on around the world at the moment, this is the right decision," England's Justin Rose tweeted.

Golfers collecting items from their lockers on Friday supported the decision in comments to The Golf Channel.

"If we can't be tested to make sure, it makes no sense to keep risking it," Spain's Jon Rahm said.

"It's like straight out of a movie, when the zombies are taking over," US golfer Brendan Steele said. "And it's really, really scary."

"I believe it was the right thing to do and I support the decision," added England's Paul Casey. "I felt (playing Thursday) I should be home with my family and questioned if I was doing the right thing."

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