(Reuters) - The Players championship golf tournament in Florida has been canceled after the first round due to coronavirus concerns, the PGA Tour said late on Thursday.
The next three events have also been scrapped.
“It is with regret that we are announcing the cancellation of The Players Championship and all events through the Valero Texas Open,” the PGA Tour said on Twitter.
The Tour sent players a text saying that the cancellation was due to a “rapidly changing situation” and that more information would follow.
Shortly afterwards it said in a statement: “We did everything possible to create a safe environment for our players in order to continue the event throughout the weekend, and we were endeavoring to give our fans a much-needed respite from the current climate.
“But at this point – and as the situation continues to rapidly change – the right thing to do for our players and our fans is to pause.”
Earlier on Thursday, commissioner Jay Monahan announced that the final three rounds of The Tour’s flagship event would be played without any spectators.
Monahan has scheduled an 8 a.m. local time (1200 GMT) news conference to address the reasons behind the cancellation.
The first round was played in front of spectators at TPC Sawgrass. Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama led at nine-under-par 63 in Ponte Vedra Beach.
The cancellation of the Players, the Valspar Championship in Florida, the World Golf Championships-Dell Matchplay in Austin, Texas, and the Texas Open in San Antonio means there will be no events before the April 9-12 Masters — the year’s first major.
Speculation is swirling about whether the Masters at Augusta National in Georgia will go ahead as scheduled, with some reports suggesting spectators might be limited or banned altogether.
The club made no public comment on Thursday.
The cancellation of the PGA Tour for the next month means that virtually no major sporting events will take place in the United States.
The top women’s circuit, the LPGA Tour, earlier on Thursday announced that it was cancelling its next three events, which were scheduled to be played in Arizona and California.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Peter Rutherford and Michael Perry