The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, March 12, 2020
Coronavirus concerns — Thoughts from Mike Whan — Must-click links in women's golf
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Coronavirus Concerns Ramping Up
I’m going to be honest, I thought all the coronavirus madness would blow over. I thought the media was blowing it out of proportion and it would be business as usual after a few weeks of everyone freaking out. But the exact opposite seems to be happening.
Even from the time I woke up this morning, there have been a ton of developments in sports, particularly golf, that make you realize this is more serious than many probably thought it’d be. The uncertainty and how everything has unfolded over the last 24 hours is rather eerie.
With the NBA suspending its season, social events like Coachella being postponed, conference basketball tournaments and the NCAA Tournament all getting nixed, coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon. In listening to Jay Monahan’s press conference this afternoon, and hearing what Mike Whan had to say as it relates to this, they have a fair point that golf is unique from other sports in that it isn’t thousands of fans crammed into an arena sitting an inch away from each other. Golf courses are miles long and with the exception of maybe the Masters, it wouldn’t be that hard to find personal space.
With that said, it doesn’t seem like there are any guarantees with this virus. I commend Monahan’s and the PGA TOUR’s decision to carry on the season without any fans, starting tomorrow until the beginning of April. Given all the other sports entities making similar decisions, I don’t think they really had a choice. All that has to happen is for a fan or two to test positive or a player to test positive, and then the PGA TOUR looks really bad. The uncertainty makes this situation so extremely tough, but at the of the day, it’s just not something anyone can really risk.
On social media, the PGA TOUR seems to be getting some flack for not immediately making a decision after the NBA news broke. Personally, I wasn’t that concerned until that happened; that’s a really big statement from an organization as massive and popular as the NBA. I get that an NBA player tested positive so it amplifies the problem, and you don’t have a choice from there, but some feel how the PGA TOUR has handled matters has been tone deaf. My take is that the situation is way too complicated to criticize them. I’m not in their shoes.
I started thinking about a few things once the news broke that the PGA TOUR season will carry on without fans. The first is whether or not the LPGA will come to a similar decision. As I said already, it only takes one player or spectator getting sick for the LPGA to be in deep trouble. Not to mention, the optics probably wouldn’t be great if the LPGA was one of the only sports leagues not taking a more serious stance. I think before the end of the day, we’ll have a statement from the LPGA on how they plan to move forward with the 2020 season.
The second is the amount of money leagues are missing out on not having fans. I absolutely support the decision to carry on in this way, but wow, it’s just not a scenario you can even prepare for financially. I don’t think many executives wake up and even anticipate something as drastic as a pandemic to effect them. It’s hard enough to wrap your head around the situation when you are only looking after yourself; I can’t imagine what all goes into crisis communications at this scale. It’s concerning and scary to think how this could impact sports, in a negative way, all over the world.
The last is the international travel ban that Trump put in place yesterday. The LPGA and PGA TOUR are global tours, which means there are a lot of players affected by this. In watching the Golf Channel broadcast this morning, they talked about the distraction it is for players who have families abroad. Tommy Fleetwood told the media his wife and son are at home in England, and now he doesn’t know if he should fly home after the weekend and whether or not he’ll be able to get back into the United States. And on the LPGA, there are players trying to get back for the Kia Classic in a couple weeks and it’s not guaranteed they’ll be able to do that.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they suspend the season entirely at this rate. I guess we will see how everything unfolds over the next couple days and coming weeks. And until then, i’ll continue to empathize with everyone across golf and beyond, and hope we can all stick together during a time of immense uncertainty and anxiety.
This Week in Women’s Golf
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New episode of Fairway Tales is live with Isabelle Shee, who started her own sock company—the world’s first planet friendly performance sock.
Anna Nordqvist playing on men’s mini-tour during unexpected LPGA break.
The details of the LPGA’s new television rights are here!
Lucy Li, age 17, made her professional debut at the Natural Charity Classic in Florida.
Does the LPGA’s first major have options outside of cancellation over COVID19?
LPGA Founders Cup gets last minute title sponsor.
LPGA Angela Stanford ran a marathon in under six hours.
Golf biding its time even among coronavirus concerns.
Bullying and financial hardships have been no match for LPGA rookie Haley Moore.
Alena Sharp enjoying extra time off amid coronavirus, LPGA cancellations.
The Junior Invitational, for the best junior golfers in the world, is adding a girls event.
Annika Sorenstam will be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Mike Whan Addresses COVID19
With THE PLAYERS going on as we speak on the PGA TOUR, and still no play has been suspended and fans are still able to attend, I’ll be interested to see what takes shape between now and the next few days. It seems to me that whatever the PGA TOUR starts doing, the LPGA will follow suit. So if they start cancelling events in the same regions, the LPGA will too. If they ban spectators everywhere this season, the LPGA will too. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan has more for us on the future of the 2020 season.
I. On dealing with coronavirus concerns with three big events on the horizon: It’s a daily thing. We have a daily crisis management meeting every morning; bring all the functions together and get an update. The numbers change so fast and we have six events coming up on the west coast. We have to make sure we’re playing in the safest possible environment.
II. On upcoming events: The good news right now is nothing is currently effected. But with the coronavirus, everything can be different when you wake up the next morning. We have contingency plans with every one of our events. We could move to playing without general admission and we could cancel or postpone if we have to.
III. On cancelling the China and Thailand events: We have cancelled three events and that wasn’t fun nor was it my favorite move, but looking back, not being in China, Singapore and Thailand, at the time we decided not to go, was definitely the right move.
IV. On the impact that the Coachella postponement, Indian Wells Tennis Tournament cancellation has on the ANA Inspiration: Currently, it just causes some anxiety. I talked to the head of the WTA yesterday and their challenge was they have 475,000 fans that sit one inch apart from each other for two weeks. We have 10,000 fans over six miles of golf course. If you want six feet of personal space on a golf course you can go and find it. It might be a little harder to do that at Coachella.
V. On the safety of players and spectators: We play in a bigger and an outdoor setting so it’s not the same as Coachella or the Indian Wells event. But at the same time, we want to make sure we don’t create anything that’s unsafe for our players and caddies, as well as the fans. Like I said we have contingency plans in each one of our markets. I can’t tell you that every single event we play over the next six weeks is going to be the exactly like the other one because it’s all going to be market to market based.