Coronavirus wipes out early-season LPGA golf swing in Asia

AFP

Singapore (AFP) - Golf's HSBC Women's World Championship in Singapore and the LPGA Thailand were cancelled Monday because of the coronavirus outbreak, meaning the US LPGA Tour has been forced to scrap all three of its lucrative early-season events in Asia.

The World Championship, won last year by world number two Park Sung-hyun, is one of the most prestigious on the US LPGA Tour with the world's top 20 players and the previous year's major-winners all participating.

The Tour had already announced 10 days ago the cancellation of China's Blue Bay LPGA from March 5-8 on the southern island of Hainan.

The three-event swing would have carried in excess of $5 million in prize money. The coronavirus outbreak has affected several other sports including football and athletics, mainly in China.

"Due to the continued health concerns and recent advisories in some Asian countries that large-scale events should be cancelled or postponed as a result of the coronavirus, the LPGA and its partners have made the decision to cancel the 2020 Honda LPGA Thailand and the 2020 HSBC Women's World Championship," an LPGA Tour statement said.

An elite field of 66 were due to compete for a $1.5 million purse at Sentosa Golf Club from February 27 with defending champion and Park playing along with fellow South Korean Ko Jin-young, the world number one, and third-ranked Nelly Korda of the US.

A purse of $1.6 million would have been up for grabs at the Siam Country Club in the Thai resort of Pattaya from February 20, and $2.1 million at the Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Course on Hainan Island from March 5.

LPGA Tour players are currently in Adelaide where the Australian Open begins on Thursday after Sunday's conclusion of the Vic Open, won by South Korea's Park Hee-young in Geelong.

After that the LPGA tour will resume at the Founder's Cup in Phoenix, Arizona, on March 19.

- Health priority -

"The health and safety of our players, fans and everyone working on the event is always our highest priority," the LPGA statement said.

"While we are disappointed that these tournaments will not take place this season, we look forward to returning to Asia soon."

The tour's next scheduled Asia event is the LPGA Shanghai, China, in October.

Singapore has stepped up its disease alert level with event organisers advised to cancel or defer non-essential large-scale events.

Singapore has barred the entry of travellers who had been to China recently and suspended issuing visas for Chinese passport holders.

The novel coronavirus has killed more than 900 people and infected 40,000 people in China. The SARS-like virus is believed to have emerged in the central city of Wuhan.

Other major sporting events to be cancelled or postponed in China because of the virus include the World Indoor Athletics Championships, Olympic qualifying events in boxing, women's football and basketball, World Cup skiing and a Formula E race.

China has also suspended all domestic football, with the start of the top-flight Chinese Super League postponed indefinitely.

Other prestigious Asian sports events such as Formula One's Chinese and Vietnamese Grands Prix and the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, all scheduled to take place in April, remain in doubt.

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