The Potential Impact of Coronavirus on Golf
By Derek Clements. Article to be updated as the Coronavirus story continues to develop
WITH more than 100,000 cases of coronavirus recorded worldwide - a figure that is sure to increase dramatically - it might be time to consider how it is going to impact on the world of golf.
Edoardo Molinari was nearly sent packing at the Oman Open because he had flown in from northern Italy. He turned out to be fine and was eventually allowed to compete, but with so many professional golfers flying all over the world from areas where the virus is rife, it is quite clear that extreme caution is going to be required - especially when you throw in the fact that tournaments such as the Players Championship will also be attended by tens of thousands of spectators who will be mingling together over the four days of the event.
The Kenya Open is the latest tournament to fall victim to the crisis after the government there took the decision to postpone all meetings and conferences in the country of an international nature, a suspension which will be reviewed next month.
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour said: “We understand and totally respect the decision made by the Government of Kenya in these difficult times. “We are looking into the possibility of rescheduling the tournament at some point later in the season, but that remains simply a possibility right now – we have no definitive plans at this stage. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Kenyan Government for their unwavering support, alongside Kenya Open Golf Limited Chairman Peter Kanyago and Tournament Director Patrick Obath for their strenuous efforts and commitment. We look forward to returning to Kenya in due course.”
(Could The Masters be threatened by coronavirus?)
We will soon be turning our attention to The Masters at Augusta and the powers-that-be have already announced that there is no question of the season’s first major being cancelled.
Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said the club has been in consultation with the World Health Organisation, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Georgia Department of Public Health and local authorities.
"The safety, health and well-being of everyone is our top priority at Augusta National Golf Club," Ridley said. "We will continue to review the available facts and information with the experts and authorities, establish precautions and take appropriate action to ensure the safety of all involved.
"We are asking that everyone follow the preventative actions advised by the CDC to mitigate the spread of any virus. In addition, we strongly encourage all those traveling to Augusta, Georgia, to become knowledgeable of the most recent travel protocols and restrictions."
The virus is already having a significant impact on the professional game. The LPGA Tour has cancelled three tournaments in China, Singapore and Thailand. In February the European Tour postponed the Maybank Championship and the Volvo China Open.
There are also question marks about the Olympic Games, due to be held in Tokyo. But Rory McIlroy, who refused to play in the golf tournament at the 2016 Games in Rio because of the Zika virus, has made it clear that he will be going to Japan if it is safe to do so.
"If they deem it safe to go to Tokyo I'll be in the plane on my way there,” he said. "I think everyone should be concerned about coronavirus and what's happening around the world. The Olympic committee have the best people to rely on to tell them whether the Games should go ahead or not - they know better than I do."
McIlroy was among a number of leading players to withdraw from the 2016 Olympics because of the Zika virus. "People just aren't comfortable going down there and putting themselves or their family at risk," he said at the time. "If the Olympics were in most other cities or countries, you wouldn't find as many people not wanting to go. There's another Games in Tokyo in 2020 and I'm more than happy to wait until then to get that Olympic experience.”
Elsewhere, all sport in Italy has been postponed until April, Champions League football matches are being played behind closed doors, and the prestigious Indian Wells tennis tournament in California has been cancelled.
Health experts tell us there is no need to panic, and it is to be hoped that sensible measures are being applied at golf clubs.
So what should we all be doing?
If your golf club has a hand sanitiser, use it. If it doesn’t, ask them why not? There can be no excuses. Keeping the coronavirus under control is simply a matter of good hygiene. Wash/clean your hands when you enter the clubhouse and do it again when you leave.
An integral part of the game is shaking hands with your partners and opponents on the 18th green. So do you carry on doing that or do you follow the lead of other sports? When England’s women played the USA the players touched elbows at the start of the game. However, they celebrated in the usual way after scoring. And that will continue to happen at rugby and football grounds all over the UK.
When all is said and done, it is surely just a matter of common sense. If your golf partner is coughing and spluttering then he or she shouldn’t be on the golf course in the first place.
One of the biggest worries will be entering the clubhouse and having a drink or a meal. Have glasses, plates, knives, forks and spoons being cleaned properly? You will know whether or not the standards of hygiene at you golf club are up to the mark. In this day and age there is no excuse for failing to reach those standards. If you have any doubts, play it safe.
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