(Reuters) - The LPGA Tour, the elite women’s professional golf circuit, will restart its COVID-19-interrupted season this month expecting positive tests and as many as three events to be cancelled, commissioner Mike Whan said on Wednesday.
Whan was positive but realistic discussing the LPGA’s plans for a relaunch with two events in Ohio starting with the Drive On Championship three-day event from July 31 to Aug. 2 in Toledo followed the next week by the Marathon LPGA Classic in Sylvania.
The LPGA will benefit from using many of the same health and safety protocols employed by the PGA Tour which has staged five tournaments since it returned to action.
But even with rigid testing and comprehensive safety measures Whan is braced for positive tests just as the PGA has had to deal with.
“It is strange to get started in a time in which we know we’re going to have positive results no matter what we build,” said Whan during a conference call. “It won’t be anybody’s fault per se but positive results happen.
“I’m excited about the schedule we have remaining for 2020; and at the same time, 120 days into coronavirus, I realize we are really not in charge of that schedule.
“I fully believe we’ll lose another event or two or three along the way.”
While the Drive On Championship will be held without spectators, Whan confirmed that the Tour is still considering allowing fans into the Marathon LPGA Classic even as the number of positive COVID-19 tests surges across parts of the United States.
New cases are averaging around 60,000 a day and more than 136,000 Americans have died from the highly contagious respiratory illness.
The PGA had hoped to have fans this week at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Columbus, Ohio but a spike in cases prompted Tour officials to announce there will be no spectators at any events the rest of the season.
“We’ll make a decision on fans at the end of the week,” said Whan. “They are waiting for some local health input.
“If we have fans, it will be 2,000 or less a day and we have a roping factor for that.
“If the final decision is to go without fans, we have said from the beginning we are totally fine with that.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond