Marc Leishman admits it will be eerie to contest the Players Championship without any crowds after the PGA Tour made the decision to continue tournaments without fans due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Leishman was out on course compiling a five-under-par 67 on day one at TPC Sawgrass when PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced all tournaments would continue through to the Texas Open in early April.
The PGA Tour's fan ban comes into effect in Friday's second round at the Players Championship, but goes against major US sporting leagues who suspended their competitions such as basketball's NBA, ice hockey's NHL and soccer's MLS.
The PGA Tour will continue the Players Championship and then stage three more tournaments minus fans before the Masters at Augusta National kicks off the majors season in mid-April.
Augusta National Golf Club is expected to make its decision of the 2020 Masters next week, although it could come this weekend.
"I trust the Tour to do the right thing; I'm sure they didn't take the decision lightly and it's a decision they can change if it gets worse," Leishman told AAP after his 67 left him just four shots behind clubhouse leader, Hideki Matsuyama.
"Hopefully, (the outbreak) gets better and they can let the crowds back in after Augusta."
“I need to make sure my energy is high; we play in front of crowds every day so for me it's important to create my own energy, not get flat.” – Marc Leishman
Matsuyama equalled TPC Sawgrass' course record with a 63 and at nine-under leads by two from Harris English and South Africa's Christiaan Bezuidenhout (65).
Many expected the US Tour to follow the suspensions of most US sports, but Monahan said: "It's natural to feel pressure to do what others have done.
"Our players are making their way over 400 acres," Monahan said. "There are other circumstances that led to the decisions that those leagues made that are unique to those leagues that we're not currently faced with."
Five-time PGA Tour winner Leishman admitted it would be a challenge to stay motivated without fans in the gallery.
"I need to make sure my energy is high; we play in front of crowds every day so for me it's important to create my own energy, not get flat," he said.
Leishman recalled the last time he played without crowds at the 2012 AT&T National near Washington, DC when a powerful storm uprooted trees on the golf course.
"I was playing in the group in front of Tiger Woods," Leishman said. "Normally, you don't want to be the group in front of him, but every staff member was out there and every volunteer and every family member from every player was watching Tiger."
- Evin Priest, Australian Associated Press