PGA Players Championship begins amid coronavirus concern

Miami (AFP) –


Golfers teed off in Thursday's opening round of The Players Championship while US PGA Tour officials watched for updates from health officials regarding the coronavirus.

Autograph seekers were kept from players as the tour's signature event began at the famed TPC Sawgrass layout in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler all opened with pars in their star trio while back-nine starter Scottie Scheffler was the early leader thanks to three birdies in his first four holes.

Defending champion and world number one Rory McIlroy, trying to become the first back-to-back winner in the event's history, was among those scheduled for an afternoon start.

The event began hours after the NBA decided to shut down its season in the wake of a player testing positive for COVID-19 and after the tour updated fans on its status.

"The PGA Tour is aware of rapidly changing developments regarding COVID-19," a tour statement Thursday said. "We will absolutely continue to review recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and local health administrations.

"This is obviously a very fluid situation that requires constant review, communication and transparency, and we are dedicated to all three aspects."