Golf: Asia's flagship WGC-HSBC Champions cancelled because of virus

SHANGHAI (AFP) -- Next month's World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, won last year by Rory McIlroy, has been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, organisers said Wednesday.

Asia's flagship event, which in 2019 had the largest prize fund of any tournament outside the US or majors at $10.25 million, is co-sanctioned by the US PGA, European Tours and Asian Tours.

It had been scheduled to take place from October 29 to November 1 at Sheshan International Golf Club and was the final stop on the PGA Tour's $29.75 million three-tournament Asian swing.

But the trio of events, the highlight of Asia's golf calendar, have been wiped off the continent by the coronavirus after South Korea's CJ Cup and Japan's Zozo Championship were relocated to courses in the US.

All international sports competitions in China, except Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic test events, have been cancelled for at least the rest of this year because of the pandemic.

''We have worked extensively with all tours, international officials, the China Golf Association and other local parties to find a solution to host the WGC-HSBC Champions,'' said Ty Votaw, PGA Tour's vice-president of international operations.

''In line with Chinese government guidelines and being mindful of the logistical implications, we collectively made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 event.''

Past winners of the prestigious event in Shanghai include current world number one Dustin Johnson, five-time major winner Phil Mickleson, double Masters champion Bubba Watson and Olympic gold medallist Justin Rose.

The $9.75 million Zozo Championship on October 22-25, launched last year and memorably won by Tiger Woods for a record-equalling 82nd PGA Tour victory, was moved Tuesday from Chiba near Tokyo to Thousands Oaks, California.

The CJ Cup, which last year also carried a mammoth prize fund of $9.75 million won for a second time by Justin Thomas, had already been shifted from Nine Bridges in Jeju Island to Shadow Creek in Las Vegas to be played from October 15-18.

The WGC-HSBC Champions follows the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix, also in Shanghai, and all of China's WTA and ATP tennis tournaments being cancelled this year because of the coronavirus.

In July the country's top sports administration said China would not stage most international sports events for the remainder of 2020.

However, there is a skeleton domestic sports calendar. The Chinese Basketball Association in June became the first major sports league to restart and was followed in July by the Chinese Super League football.

China, where the outbreak emerged near the end of last year, has seen the number of reported coronavirus infections plummet. However, it is now concerned about imported cases and from late March barred entry to most foreign visitors.

While the PGA Tour and European Tours have been able to resume without spectators, the Asian Tour has been idle since a Malaysian tournament in early March.

The tour was forced to abandon plans to restart this month with events in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan all cancelled because of travel and quarantine restrictions.