New Covid variant, flight bans affect Joburg Open, South African Open, Alfred Dunhill Championship
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New Covid variant, flight bans affect Joburg Open, South African Open, Alfred Dunhill Championship



With the discovery of a new, well-mutated Covid variant in South Africa and several other African nations, the DP World Tour -- formerly the European Tour -- and the co-sanctioning Sunshine Tour have been forced to make difficult decisions in the name of player safety.

The variant, known as B.1.1.529, has spread rapidly through the Gauteng province, where this week's Joburg Open is being played, near Johannesburg. It contains a large number of mutations that some scientists fear could make it more transmissible and give it the potential to evade antibodies.

After the tournament began Thursday just outside of Johannessburg, weather caused a suspension of play. However, hours later, the United Kingdom announced it would institute a flight ban from South Africa and require UK citizens to quarantine upon arrival. The European Union has called on its 27 member nations to institute a similar temporary ban, and France and Italy have already done so.

By midday Friday, 22 players have either withdrawn or retired from the tournament, with the UK flight ban beginning at noon GMT.

The DP World Tour sent a memo to players on Friday, updating them on the status of the event. The Joburg Open is still scheduled to be played to completion, but later on Friday afternoon, the event was shortened to 54 holes. With other countries considering or instituting similar travel bans to and from South Africa, players were given the go-ahead to withdraw from the event without penalty so as to avoid travel issues.

The co-sanctioning tours also announced changes to the next two weeks' worth of tournaments: the South African Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

The South African Open will be played as an event only sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour, with a purse of $500,000.

The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship has been canceled.

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Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

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