European Tour’s Kenya Open canceled as coronavirus fears continue impact on pro golf

March 6, 2020
Golfer Guido Migliozzi hits tee shot at 2019 Kenya Open.

The 2020 Magical Kenya Open, originally scheduled for next week, will no longer take place as fears about the worldwide coronavirus outbreak rise, according to a statement by the European Tour.

But it wasn’t the Tour who chose to cancel the event. Instead, the decision was made by the Kenyan government, which has indefinitely suspended all International events in the country in an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, officially known as Covid-19.

Why the Kenya Open was canceled

According to the statement by the European Tour, “Due to the threat posed by the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Government of Kenya, has this morning advised of their decision to postpone all meetings and conferences in the country of an international nature, a suspension which will be reviewed in a month’s time.”

“This means the Magical Kenya Open Presented by Absa on the European Tour,” the statement continues, …”will now not take place.”

The tournament, which was contested as a European Tour event for the first time in 2019, was supposed to run from March 12-15 at the Karen Country Club in Nairobi. While the Tour did not make call to cancel the event, Chief Executive Keith Pelley says the Tour supports the decision.

“We understand and totally respect the decision made by the Government of Kenya in these difficult times,” Pelley said in the statement. “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… we look forward to returning to Kenya in due course.”

Coronavirus fears impact several golf tournaments

The Kenya Open is just the latest in a series of tournament cancelations in professional golf as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

In mid-February, the European Tour announced that it would postpone two events, the Maybank Championship and the Volvo China Open. The Maybank Championship was originally scheduled to be played the week after the Masters, April 16-19, and the Volvo China Open was to follow the next week, April 23-26. The Tour has not determined whether the tournaments will receive a new spot on the schedule this season.

Then in late February, Italian golfers Edoardo Molinari and Lorenzo Gagli were initially forced to withdraw from the Oman Open. After Gagli began displaying flu-like symptoms early in the week, the pair of golfers were placed in quarantine. Gagli and Molinari were sharing a hotel room prior to Gagli falling ill, prompting European Tour doctors (at the behest of the Oman health ministry) to operate with an abundance of caution.

Once Gagli’s test came back negative on the night before the first round, both players were allowed to re-enter the tournament, though Gagli had some strong words for the decision to quarantine only Molinari and him.

“It’s an inexplicable decision,” Gagli told Italian newspaper La Nazione. “Only us two have been excluded from the tournament, but I arrived in Muscat [Oman] last Sunday, and over the last few days, I’ve worked out in the gym with dozens of other players. I ate with them and traveled by bus with them. If there was a risk of contagion, then they would have to isolate dozens of golfers and cancel the tournament.”

LPGA first Tour impacted by coronavirus

The LPGA Tour has not been shielded from the widening impact of the coronavirus, especially with its preponderance of events in Asia. Already three LPGA tournaments have been canceled due to the coronavirus: the Blue Bay LPGA on Hainan Island in China, the Honda LPGA Thailand and the HSBC Women’s World Championship. An LPGA Tour of Japan tournament was also cancelled.

“It is always a difficult decision to cancel events and the LPGA greatly appreciates the understanding and all the efforts made by our title sponsors (Honda and HSBC) as well as IMG to host incredible events for our players,” The tour said in a statement. “The health and safety of our players, fans and everyone working on the event is always our highest priority.”

Will the Masters or Tokyo Olympics be affected by coronavirus?

On March 4, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley declared that the 2020 Masters, scheduled for the first week of April, will continue as planned, as will the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

The next major golf tournament that could be impacted is the golf competition at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. While organizers have denied reports that they are considering moving the Games (currently scheduled for July) any move could threaten the golf event given how carefully the schedules of the major tours were organized around the Olympics.

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