In the span of about 11 hours Thursday, the Valspar Championship went from playing without spectators to not playing at all.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced the decision to cancel the PLAYERS Championship after one round due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the scheduled PGA tournaments the next three weeks, at 10 p.m. Thursday night.
None of those tournaments, including next week’s Valspar at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course, were able to be rescheduled. “It’s not a possibility," Monahan said at a Friday morning news conference in Ponte Vedra.
Later in the morning, one of professional golf’s major championships, the Masters, was postponed. It was originally scheduled to be played April 9-12.
“Considering the latest information and expert analysis, we have decided at this time to postpone the Masters Tournament, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals," Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said in a statement. “Ultimately, the health and well-being of everyone associated with these events and the citizens of the Augusta community led us to this decision. We hope this postponement puts us in the best position to safely host the Masters Tournament and our amateur events at some later date."
In his Friday news conference, Monahan said there were two major factors in deciding to cancel the rest of the PLAYERS tournament. One was input from players after the first round, some of whom he said were concerned about the coronavirus and travel. The second was the decision by Disney to close Disney World and Universal in Orlando.
“You look at two theme parks between Jacksonville and Tampa cancel, then we can’t proceed," Monahan said.
The Valspar Championship was set to begin Monday with a celebrity pro-am. Infrastructure was set up throughout the Copperhead Course. Even though spectators were not allowed, the grandstands and scoreboards were going to remain up.
Those plans have now changed.
“We’ll start taking structures down a little earlier than expected," Valspar Championship tournament director Tracy West said. “It’s a sad day, but you have to keep things in perspective. We’re disappointed, especially for the thousands of people who help put this on as well as the community and fans. But also, we understand and support the tour’s decision 100 percent."
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Monahan acknowledged that canceling tournaments will have an effect on vendors who rely on the income they provide. Money given to local charities will also be impacted.
“What you’ll see in the weeks ahead is the demonstration of the strength of our business model and strength of the partnerships that we share," he said. “In all of our discussions with them, they want to make sure that we partner to do the right thing. And in not playing, make a big impact on the communities we are vacating. We have been in contact with them over the last several weeks and certainly that intensified over the last 48 hours. They are fully supportive of the decision we made. They had proper input into the decision we made. Now it’s on to how do we help the communities we vacated. Hold us accountable to that because we are going to do great things."
What those things are is not yet clear. West said there will be discussions in the future about the programs that usually benefit charities and the community during tournament week.
“We’ve talked about it big picture-wise," West said. “I know everyone wants to do the right thing."
The next possible time golf could resume would be in mid-April at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, S.C. Local golf fans will now have to wait more than a year to see the PGA Tour again. The LPGA is scheduled to return to the area in mid-May for the inaugural Pelican Championship in Belleair. No word yet on if that will change.
Next year’s Valspar Championship will be played in late April after being in the March Florida Swing since 2007. West said there won’t be a concrete date for another few weeks or later.
“Now we turn the course back over to Innisbrook," West said. “We’ll start preparing for next year and try to make it even bigger and better."