PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Hideki Matsuyama heard plenty of cheers on the way to matching the course record at the TPC Sawgrass on Thursday, firing an opening round nine-under 63 to grab a two-shot lead at the Players Championship.
But the 28-year-old Japanese golfer won’t be hearing any more applause this weekend after the PGA Tour announced mid-round that spectators would be banned for the remainder of the tournament in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
If fans want to see more of Matsuyama and the rest of the world’s top players battle for golf’s biggest purse of $15 million they will have to watch on television.
That is the only place fans will see golfers for the next month with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announcing a spectators ban from all tournaments until after April 5.
The ban ends just ahead of the April 9-12 Masters at Augusta National where the year’s first major is due to be contested.
Taking advantage of ideal morning conditions, Matsuyama got his round off to a flying start with four consecutive birdies.
But the highlight and biggest cheer came on his final hole where he rolled in a 25-foot eagle putt at the par-five ninth to become the ninth player to shoot 63 on the course.
Matsuyama’s performance earned him a two-stroke cushion over South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout, American Harris English and South Korea’s Kim Si-woo, all at seven-under 65.