May’s US PGA Championship a serious doubt with Masters already postponed

Coronavirus shutdown could hinder Tiger Woods’ hopes of playing in the Olympics

The US PGA Championship is in serious doubt following updated recommendations from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As efforts continue worldwide to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the CDC has suggested that organisers cancel or postpone events consisting of 50 or more people throughout the United States for the next eight weeks.

The US PGA Championship is set to begin in nine weeks’ time at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, but the situation continues to develop rapidly and travel restrictions are already affecting the ability of players to get to the United States.

In a bulletin issued on Sunday evening, the CDC wrote: “Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travellers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities.


“Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies. These events can be planned not only by organisations and communities but also by individuals.

“Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next eight weeks, organisers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.”

Next month’s Masters has already been postponed and the Players Championship was cancelled after the first round. PGA Tour events for the next three weeks have also been cancelled.

Six-time Masters winner Jack Nicklaus does not feel that the year's first major will be able to be rescheduled.

“In all practicality they are postponing, but I can’t see any way they would play it at a later date,” Nicklaus said in an interview on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

“How in the world could they work it into the schedule? It wouldn’t be fair to any other tournaments that are later. I think we are probably going to miss the Masters this year, that’s just my opinion, but I think it makes logical sense.”

No changes are planned to the Olympic golf qualifying system, the International Golf Federation (IGF) which runs the event said after the sport shut down due to the coronavirus.

This could deal a hammer blow to the chances of Tiger Woods qualifying for Tokyo 2020, and for Park In-bee's hopes of being eligible to defend her title from Rio 2016.

Based on the current rankings, Woods (United States) and Park (South Korea) would not qualify for their respective teams.

However, scrambling the equation is that even if the Olympics go ahead, many golfers could opt out, much as they did from Rio 2016 due to concerns over the zika virus.

Eligibility for the Tokyo 2020 men’s and women’s events will be determined by world ranking points compiled over almost two years from July 1st, 2018 until June 22nd (men) and June 29th (women) this year.

The list essentially mirrors the world rankings in determining the 60-player fields, with a maximum of two players from any single country (four if inside the top 15).

But the halting of the professional tour schedules for an undetermined time frame will have winners and losers, because there will be little week-to-week flux in the rankings.

Those on the outside looking in will for the most part continue looking in, and vice-versa.

“This has proven to be a fair and equitable system,” the IGF said of the qualifying system.

“The IGF is monitoring the challenges faced by our athletes to participate in events, which continues to change daily, and we currently believe that the system still remains fair to all athletes who are vying for qualification to the Tokyo2020 Olympic Games.”

In other words, bad luck if you’re outside the qualifying cut line and hoping to play your way in.

Though Park is 11th on the overall women’s world list, she is only the fifth-ranked Korean behind Ko Jin-young, Park Sung-hyun, Kim Sei-young and Lee Jeong-eun.

The LPGA Tour has cancelled three tournaments in Asia, and postponed three US tournaments that were scheduled over the next month.

Even if rescheduled, it is unlikely these American tournaments will be played before the Olympic cut-off.

An even bigger question from a global marketing aspect is what the PGA Tour shutdown, at least through next month’s Masters, means to Woods’s hopes.

He is sixth on the American list, behind Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Webb Simpson and Patrick Reed.

Dustin Johnson has ruled himself out, citing a busy schedule, though he could be joined by others wanting to keep their travel to a minimum unless the coronavirus abates quickly.

Woods, 44, has often stated his desire to play in what would likely be his only chance of being an Olympian, though he has more important matters on his mind given that he was unable to enter last week’s Players Championship due to a stiff back.

He has played only twice this year.

The 15-times major champion plays such a limited schedule at the best of times that even if, under a best-case scenario, the PGA Tour cranks back up again in mid-April, there are only a handful of events he will contest before the Olympic deadline.

The Olympic golf tournaments are scheduled to take place from July 30th-August 2nd (men) and August 6th-9th (women) at the Kasumigaseki course.