Japan’s Zozo Championship, launched last year and memorably won by Tiger Woods, has been moved to California because of coronavirus restrictions, effectively wiping out the 2020 US PGA Tour’s $30 million ‘Asian Swing’, organisers announced Tuesday.
The event was scheduled to take place from October 22-25 but will now be held at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California, on the same dates but without spectators.
With combined purses of $29.75 million, the PGA Tour’s three-stop Asian swing has been the highlight of Asia’s golf calendar in recent seasons.
But South Korea’s CJ Cup on October 15-18 was last week moved from Jeju Island to Las Vegas and the WGC-HSBC Champions from October 29 to November 1 looks certain to be cancelled.
The $10.25 million Shanghai tournament has been in doubt since Chinese authorities banned almost all international sports events for the rest of the year to guard against coronavirus outbreaks.
With leading players based in the US and the postponed Masters due to take place at Augusta in November, the PGA Tour “have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to invite players to compete in Japan,” a statement said.
Japan has essentially closed its borders to most foreigners in a national drive to reduce risks of coronavirus infections.
The pandemic has forced a one-year delay of the Tokyo Olympics but some professional sports in Japan such as baseball and football have started allowing limited numbers of spectators.
The nation has so far detected about 68,000 coronavirus infections, and recorded roughly 1,300 deaths.
The Zozo Championship is Japan’s first US PGA Tour event and was launched last year to great fanfare with Woods thrilling huge crowds.
The 15-time major winner led from gun to tape to record a record-equalling victory, three strokes clear of local favourite Hideki Matsuyama, with Rory McIlroy third, at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba, east of Tokyo.
The victory saw Woods tie the all-time mark of 82 US PGA Tour victories held by the legendary Sam Snead.
“During this difficult time, we look forward to dedicating this year’s tournament not just to the fans in Japan, but to fans around the world,” said Zozo President Kotaro Sawada in a statement.
With a reduced purse in California, down to $8 million from last year’s £$9.5 million, the Zozo Championship will again be competed for by an elite field of 78.