The British Open will not be played this year for the first time since 1945, golf officials announced Monday as they tried to reconfigure a major championship schedule that would end with the Masters being played two weeks before Thanksgiving.
Still to be determined is when — or even if — golf can resume depending on the spread of COVID-19 that has shut down sports worldwide.
The R&A announced that the British Open, scheduled for July 16-19 at Royal St. George’s in England, will be pushed back until July 15-18 in 2021, leaving the 150th Open for St. Andrews in 2022.
“I can assure everyone that we have explored every option for playing The Open this year, but it is not going to be possible,” R&A chief Martin Slumbers said.
The Masters, which was supposed to start Thursday, was rescheduled for Nov. 12-15. That would follow the PGA Championship on Aug. 6-9 at Harding Park in San Francisco and the U.S. Open — still at Winged Foot in New York — for Sept. 17-20.
“We hope the anticipation of staging the Masters Tournament in the fall brings a moment of joy to the Augusta community and all those who love the sport,” Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley said. “We want to emphasize that our future plans are incumbent upon favourable counsel and direction from health officials.”
Golf’s major organizations have been trying to piece together a puzzle for the last three weeks and each agreed to announce their schedules at the same time in a show of collaboration. Still missing is the starting line, along with details on what could be the most hectic pace golf has ever known.
The PGA Tour has the most moving parts, and it tentatively has planned to complete its FedEx Cup season close to schedule, with the Tour Championship wrapping up the post-season run on Labor Day. It also is contemplating putting tournaments in dates that previously belonged to the U.S. Open, British Open and Olympics.
“It’s a complex situation, and we want to balance the commitments to our various partners with playing opportunities for our members — while providing compelling competition to our fans,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said. “But all of that must be done while navigating the unprecedented global crisis that is impacting every single one of us.”
The new schedule features:
— Aug. 6-9: PGA Championship.
— Aug. 13-16: End of PGA Tour regular season at Wyndham Championship.
— Aug. 20-23: Start of FedEx Cup playoffs at The Northern Trust.
— Aug. 27-30: BMW Championship, second playoff event.
— Sept. 4-7: Tour Championship for the FedEx Cup.
— Sept. 17-20: U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
— Sept. 25-27: Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.
It was not immediately clear how the teams from Europe and the United States would be determined for the Ryder Cup, although European captain Padraig Harrington has said he would not be opposed to picking all 12 players.
For the 24 players, that means going from what long has been regarded as the toughest test in golf to what has become the most tiresome three days in golf at the Ryder Cup.
Other details still to be sorted out is U.S. Open qualifying. Like everything else, it all starts with when golf resumes. The next tournament still on the schedule is Colonial on May 21-24, though that appears unlikely.
Ridley said every player who has received invitations to play the Masters in April will stay on the list, with more details to be sorted out later. He also said the Augusta National Women’s Amateur was cancelled, and every player can keep their spots for next year provided they don’t turn pro.
Winged Foot just north of New York City is about 5 miles away from a hot spot for the new coronavirus. Construction for the U.S. Open was stopped two weeks ago as the USGA tried to determine its best course. For now, it’s to stay in New York with a September date.
The last time the U.S. Open was this late in the year was in 1913, when amateur Francis Ouimet took down Harry Vardon and Ted Ray at Brookline to put golf on the map in the United States.
The U.S. Senior Open at Newport Country Club and the U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Brooklawn Country Club in Connecticut have been cancelled.
The PGA Championship, which last year moved to May for the first time in some 70 years, returns to August at Harding Park in San Francisco.
The British Open last was cancelled in 1945 because of World War II. Slumbers said those with tickets or hospitality package can use them in 2021 or get a full refund.
Meanwhile, the claret jug stays with Shane Lowry of Ireland, who won last year at Royal Portrush. He won’t have possession as long as Dick Burton, who won in 1939, the year before it was cancelled because of the war.
Lowry said in a video tweet he understood and supported the R&A’s decision.
“You can trust me when I say the claret jug is going to be in safe hands for another year,” Lowry said.
Doug Ferguson, The Associated Press