LPGA veterans fear losing season, Olympics to coronavirus

Stacy Lewis say safety concerns must prevail over sports events. (AFP pic)

LOS ANGELES: Two-time LPGA major champions Stacy Lewis and Brittany Lincicome worry the growing coronavirus outbreak that forced three Asian events to be cancelled will wipe out the Tokyo Olympics and other tournaments.

The LPGA, which has played two US tournaments and two others in Australia this year, cancelled a February event in Thailand, another that would have been played this week in Singapore and one planned for next week in China.

A run of 15 consecutive US LPGA tournaments begins with the Founders Cup in Arizona on March 19-22 leading into the Tokyo Olympics women’s event, scheduled for Aug 5-8.

“I’m worried about the whole season,” Lincicome said, to which Lewis replied, “I know, I am, too. It’s in the US now, too, so travelling anywhere, through any airport, I think you’re thinking about it and you’re aware of it.

“I took Clorox wipes with me to Australia and wiped everything down on the aeroplane.”

Lewis, who shared fourth at the 2016 Rio Olympics just one stroke behind Chinese bronze medalist Feng Shanshan, and US compatriot Lincicome spoke ahead of the year’s first major, April’s ANA Invitational at Rancho Mirage.

Both players recently became mothers, Lewis giving birth to baby daughter Chesnee in October 2018 and Lincicome greeting daughter Emery last July. So they are extra cautious about the escalating coronavirus outbreak.

“I think it’s not going away anytime soon,” Lewis said. “I hope by the Olympics that it has kind of fizzled itself out and it’s not an issue because you don’t want that for such a big sporting event.”

Lincicome agreed, noting how treasured a berth in the Olympic event would be for anyone but that safety concerns must prevail.

“Now that we have the Olympics, that would be a dream come true to play it, but obviously our health is more important, unfortunately, and we’ll just have to cross that bridge when we got there,” she said.

Picking health over sticky rice

Lewis had planned to play in Thailand while Lincicome was excited about playing in Thailand and Singapore after missing them last year while pregnant until the decision to cancel was made.

“I was planning on going,” Lincicome said. “I don’t love the heat so much over there, but just the cheap foot massages every day and the bubble teas and the mango sticky rice. There’s a lot of things that I love about Thailand and Singapore.

“But I was planning on going until it got worse and then my caddie was like, ‘No, it’s not a good idea.’

“I wanted to go until they cancelled it, and then I was bummed, but obviously coming back and being stuck in quarantine or giving it to my daughter, there were more negatives than there were positives for foot massages and mango sticky rice.”

Lewis was in Australia pondering what to do when the events were cancelled.

“I probably would have picked our health over playing in the golf tournament,” she said.

“I’m very glad the tour made the calls that they did. I know they were hard, but it was just a chance that we couldn’t take just with all the players travelling and the caddies, the support staff.”

“There are a lot of people that were going to be going through airports and the way we travel in those events, too, we’re on buses, and one person gets it, we’re all sick. I really feel like the tour made the right call.”