In the biggest shock in its history since Rory McIlroy took a quadruple-bogey eight on the opening hole at Royal Portrush last summer, the Open Championship of 2020 has been cancelled. Coronavirused into oblivion. Instead, Royal St George’s in Kent will have to wait until July 2021 to host the 149th Open. As for the 150th staging of the Open Championship at St Andrews in 2021…well, that just became the 150th staging of the Open at St Andrews in 2022.
In announcing last week what was pretty much the inevitable, Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, said: “I can assure everyone that we have explored every option for playing the Open this year but it is not going to be possible…we rely on the support of the emergency services, local authorities and a range of other organisations and it would be unreasonable to place any additional demands on them when they have far more urgent priorities to deal with.”
It is thought that, as with the Wimbledon tennis championships, the R&A has insurance cover that will protect its revenues from an occurrence such as this being forced upon it because of a pandemic. While the R&A was criticised in some quarters for not having made this announcement earlier, it should be borne in mind that much of the money generated by the Open Championship goes towards furthering the development of golf at grassroots level all over the world. Other than during the two World Wars, the Open has been held every year since its inception in 1860 with the exception of 1871. That was because Young Tom Morris had won the Open in three consecutive years from 1868 and therefore obtained possession of the champion’s belt. The claret jug they play for today was introduced in 1872.
The three American majors have been postponed from their original dates but as things stand they are all scheduled to be held, even if that has to be unlikely. The USPGA Championship is set for Harding Park in San Francisco from August 6-9 but Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, has said: “I’m not anticipating that happening in this state.” Given what’s going on across the nation in New York, the prospect of the US Open happening at Winged Foot from September 17-20 (the week before the Ryder Cup in Wisconsin) has to be iffy.
The Masters, which began the season in its customary place as the first major of the year, is now aiming to be the last. (Perhaps the only?) Its dates are now November 12-15. The extra time should, one would think, make it the most likely major of 2020 to manage to be played, which would clearly be good news for golf fans if somewhat less so for the folk in South Africa who have got those dates for the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City. (One would have to think the new dates for Augusta would have some adverse impact on the field for the Turkish Airlines Open, the week beforehand, and perhaps for the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai the week after.)
Finally, back to the Ryder Cup. If it gets postponed to 2021, that would mean the 2022 match in Rome would surely become the 2023 match in Rome. It has been reported that many of the European Tour’s 270-some staff have been furloughed (a word none of us had heard of until a month ago but now can’t avoid) and the first tournament that now might be held would be the BMW International Open in Munich in the last week of June. One wouldn’t bet on that taking place. A pushing back of the next home Ryder Cup would likely be anything other than helpful to the Tour’s finances.
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