The Players Championship golf event is due to start on schedule despite the global coronavirus pandemic.

The event, which is staged in Florida, is one of the most prestigious tournaments on the PGA Tour and is often referred to as the sport's 'fifth major'.

The decision to press ahead comes after five European Tour events have so far been postponed as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

A PGA Tour statement read: "With the information currently available, The Players Championship will continue as scheduled, although we will absolutely continue to review recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, World Health OrganiSation and local health administrations.

"This is obviously a very fluid situation that requires constant review, communication and transparency, and we are dedicated to all three aspects. The PGA Tour will provide an additional update by 12pm ET (5pm Irish time) on Thursday.

"In the meantime, players in the field have been notified to be prepared to play round one, as scheduled." 

It was later announced that the event would continue, without spectators, a decision PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan defended.

While other sports in the United States have been suspended or cancelled in response to the outbreak, PGA Tour events will go ahead as planned without spectators on site.

The policy takes effect from Friday's second round of the Players Championship and continues until the Masters, which is understood to be considering its own response to the rapidly-evolving situation.

The Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship in the Dominican Republic, which was scheduled for March 26-29, has also been postponed.

Asked why the PGA Tour had not followed the lead of Major League Soccer and the NBA in shutting down entirely, Monahan told a press conference: "If you look at our venues, obviously we are an outdoor sport and here at TPC Sawgrass our players are making their way over 400 acres.

"Over the course of a round our players do socially distance themselves, so we felt like by taking the step to address the problem with our fans, we're in a position where we can continue to operate the events, as of right now."

Monahan said he had been in "frequent discussion" with organisers of the Masters, who are expected to give an update on the year's first major championship next week.

Golf.com senior writer Alan Shipnuck shared a text on social media from an Augusta National member which read: "I believe the tournament will be played. Discussions are ongoing.

"Limiting patrons seems likely. Might be none at all. Closing practice rounds, cancelling the Par-3...everything is on the table. Expect an announcement next week."

Monahan had earlier outlined the Tour's stance after speaking to US President Donald Trump and Florida governor Ron DeSantis.

"At this point in time, PGA Tour events across all tours will currently proceed as scheduled, but will do so without fans," Monahan said.

"This policy starts at The Players Championship tomorrow (Friday) and continues through the Valero Texas Open.

"It's important to note that could change, but for the time being this decision allows the PGA Tour, our fans and constituents to plan, prepare and respond as events develop.

"Further, the recently announced travel advisories and potential logistical issues associated with players and staff travelling internationally limit our ability to successfully stage the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship (in the Dominican Republic).

"Therefore, we are going to postpone that event and will provide details in the coming weeks on a reschedule as this situation develops.

"We will continue The Players with essential personnel only, and we will be in direct conversations with those groups (vendors, broadcasters, media, player support groups, essential volunteers) to provide instructions."

Lee Westwood said he was surprised by "how little the PGA Tour are doing" in response to the coronavirus outbreak compared to other US sports .

The former world number one wrote on Twitter: "Considering the approach of other sports in the US to the #coronavirus , I'm surprised how little the @PGATOUR are doing. I know we don't play in such a confined arena but surely our age range of fans are more susceptible. @EuropeanTour have postponed events in August already."

Taiwan's CT Pan, meanwhile, revealed he had withdrawn from the Players Championship due to concerns about the coronavirus.

Pan wrote on Twitter: "I chose to withdraw from the Players Championship because my wife and I want to protect ourselves from the risk of exposure to the Coronavirus. We are fine and our families are fine. Our lifestyle is like a circus, traveling from one place to another. We believe this is a time to exercise caution by not playing this week."

Pan also deleted an earlier tweet which appeared to criticise the lack of facilities for players at Sawgrass.

"I'm probably the only one who is not playing, same number as the hand sanitizers in the clubhouse, locker and dining," Pan wrote.