LPGA to restart with Ohio double; Governor gives go-ahead to tennis' US Open
The Ladies Professional Golf Association, the prominent USA-based tour, will restart its 2020 season late next month with consecutive tournaments in the state of Ohio.
The tour was suspended following the Women’s Australia Open in February due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The 2020 season will restart on 31 July, with the newly created three-day Drive On Championship at the Inverness Club in Toledo.
The tournament will have a full field of 144 players competing for a total prize fund of $1 million but spectators will not be able to attend.
However, the next event, the Marathon LPGA Classic, scheduled for 6 to 9 August in Sylvania, will welcome back fans at the Highland Meadows Golf Club after obtaining approval from Ohio state governor Mike DeWine.
The Marathon Classic will feature a $2 million prize fund for a field of 156 players. Spectators will be required to wear masks and take regular temperature readings, while officials will limit capacity in certain areas to ensure there is adequate social distancing.
Both tournaments will be broadcast in USA by Golf Channel.
Mike Whan, LPGA commissioner, said: “Thanks in part to the generosity of our partners who could not reschedule their events in 2020, we are adding a valuable additional playing opportunity for our LPGA Tour members.
“We are so appreciative of our long-time partners, Marathon and Dana, as well as the memberships at Highland Meadows and Inverness, for adjusting their schedules and helping us create a valuable two-week stretch in the Toledo areas as we work to safely return to competition.
“This new event will allow us to test our Covid-19 protocols before we get to welcome back our fans at the Marathon LPGA Classic presented by Dana.”
Future tournaments will be announced in due course.
The updated schedule fills the gap created by the cancellation of the LPGA’s first major, the Evian Championship, due to safety concerns.
The men’s PGA Tour returned last week, with no spectators, for the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas.
Meanwhile, New York governor Andrew Cuomo has given the green light for the US Open grand slam tennis tournament to go ahead on 31 August to 13 September without spectators.
At a press conference yesterday, Cuomo said the state is satisfied with the US Tennis Association’s plan to put on the event with strict health and safety protocols to minimise the spread of the coronavirus.
He said: “The numbers look very good. We’re excited about the US Open being held in [the New York City borough of] Queens … it will be held without fans, but we can watch it on TV. And I’ll take that.”
The news will come as a relief for the USTA, which is close to reaching an agreement with the men’s ATP Tour and women’s WTA to proceed with the tournament.
Unlike the All England Lawn Tennis Club, organisers of the Wimbledon Championship, who have pandemic insurance, the USTA has no cover for cancellation.
The tournament going ahead means it can secure television receipts estimated at more than $120 million from ESPN and other global broadcast partners.
Mike Dowse, USTA chief executive, said: “We are incredibly excited that governor Cuomo and New York state have today approved our plan to host the 2020 US Open and Western and Southern Open, at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre.
“We recognise the tremendous responsibility of hosting one of the first global sporting events in these challenging times, and we will do so in the safest manner possible, mitigating all potential risks. We now can give fans around the world the chance to watch tennis’ top athletes, and showcase tennis as the ideal social-distancing sport.”
However, there are still lingering concerns from players about the tournament going ahead.
World number one men’s player Novak Djokovic, who travels with one of the biggest entourages in tennis, has publicly objected to having his team restricted to one person, while Australian player Nick Kyrgios described the decision to go ahead with the tournament as “selfish."
Women’s world number two Simona Halep told Reuters today it is “highly unlikely” she will play in the tournament.