Matsuyama ties record before Players canceled

Golf

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Fans who were scattered around the ninth green saw Hideki Matsuyama finish with a 25-foot eagle putt to tie the course record and take the lead at the Players Championship.

Hours later, the PGA Tour announced the rest of the tournament was being canceled due to the coronavirus. In addition, the PGA Tour shut down its other tournaments for the next three weeks.

Earlier, spectators filled the theater around the dynamic 16th and 17th holes at TPC Sawgrass to see Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka salvage rough starts.

It was announced during Thursday’s round that the rest of tournament was going to be played without fans. The decision to cancel the rest of the event came Thursday evening.

Even with the best in the world competing for the richest purse in golf, the Players Championship felt like an afterthought amid rapid developments with the new coronavirus that led sports around the world to stop playing.

Matsuyama opened with four straight birdies and closed with a 3-wood into 25 feet for eagle and a 9-under 63, the ninth player to share the record at Sawgrass.

He had a two-shot lead over Harris English, former winner Si Woo Kim and Christiaan Bezuidenhout of South Africa.

Graeme McDowell described a somber mood in the locker room and on the range as he tried to get warmed up.

“We just don’t really know how to react and didn’t really know what to expect,” McDowell said after a 68, his best score in his past 20 rounds at Sawgrass. “At one point, I was nearly expecting the horns to go off out there for us all to be taken off the golf course.”

As for the golf? Fans saw plenty of birdies, eagles and only three balls in the water on the 17th.

Patrick Cantlay returned from three weeks off to have surgery for a deviated septum with a 67. In relatively benign conditions, three dozen players broke 70. The biggest issue was tee shots that picked up mud on the soft fairways.

Justin Thomas had a 71 and was asked to give a few comments about his round.

“I feel like I don’t real really need to say that,” Thomas said. “Everyone else wants to talk about other stuff, so it doesn’t really matter. I shot 1 under. It’s not that great.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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