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PGA Tour preparing to hold events without fans after hiatus

The PGA Tour sent a memo to players late this week to explain what it is doing regarding its future schedule amid the season hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and indicated that the first several events back could be played without fans in attendance.

The Tour suspended operations after the first round of The Players Championship last month amid the coronavirus outbreak, and has canceled all future events across all Tours — including the PGA Tour Champions and Korn Ferry Tour — through the AT&T Byron Nelson. All four major championships were either postponed to the fall or canceled, too.

The Charles Schwab Championship, scheduled to start on May 21 in Fort Worth, Texas, is currently listed as the next event. However, according to ESPN, the Tour is expected to announce that it is canceling more events next week.

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According to Golf Digest, one possible restart could begin with the Charles Schwab Championship on June 11-14 — which would take the slot currently held by The RBC Canadian Open, an event that is no longer expected to be played. The Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit and the Travelers Championship would then follow. All three would likely be played without fans.

Whenever a decision is made, the Tour said it plans to give players “at least three to four weeks” notice before play resumes. It said in the memo, however, that it will “lean on guidance from health and government officials” in making that decision.

“We understand many of you may be impacted by travel restrictions and/or the inability to practice in your area,” the memo said, via Golf Digest, “thus we want to be able to give you as much time as possible to allow you to come back fully prepared.”

There were nearly 493,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Friday afternoon, according to The New York Times. While golf would likely be one of the first sports in the country able to resume play, especially if done without fans — as golfers, caddies and a limited number of officials could reasonably keep their distance from one another outside on a golf course — it’s still not clear when it will be able to do so. The Tour initially attempted to play the final three rounds of The Players Championship last month without fans, though scrapped that plan and canceled the event completely just hours later.

The British Open was canceled completely earlier this week, while The PGA Championship was moved to start on August 6. The U.S. Open is scheduled for Sept. 17-20, with the Ryder Cup to follow the next week, and The Masters is currently set to start on Nov. 12. The Tour is attempting to schedule additional events around the remaining major championships in an effort to provide players as many chances to compete as possible, and may even schedule multiple tournaments in the same week, according to ESPN.

“We are evaluating other options that allow us to preserve the maximum number of events we can while giving us more times as the crisis evolves,” the memo said, via the Golf Channel.

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