New PGA Tour schedule could bring an end to the year like no other

The British Open has been cancelled but new dates have been found for the US Majors

The US Masters at Augusta National has been rescheduled to take place in November. Photograph: Kevin C Cox/Getty

The US Masters at Augusta National has been rescheduled to take place in November. Photograph: Kevin C Cox/Getty

 

Where the R&A has gone for a clean cut, in cancelling this year’s scheduled British Open at Royal St Georges in Kent and pushing it back by a year, the other three men’s Major championships - all in the United States - have been reallocated new dates in the golfing calendar, finishing up with the Masters in November, that potentially provides for a late season unlike any other in the sport’s history.

Given the impact of the global coronavirus crisis, and the high degree of uncertainty about the weeks and months ahead, it remains to be seen if those entertaining the prospect of keeping the US PGA, the US Open and the US Masters as viable entities on the calendar are being hopeful or realistic: for now, the re-jigging of the calendar will see the US PGA take place in August, the US Open move to September (the week before the Ryder Cup), and the Masters fall back to a November date.

The seismic nature of the changes to the calendar are not just applicable to men’s professional golf, as the women’s professional circuit will also be dramatically affected with date switches that see the US Women’s Open move from June to December; the Evian Championship to August in the run-up to the Women’s British Open, and the ANA Inspiration (originally scheduled for last week) moved to September. The KPMG PGA Women’s Championship still holds its date in June, but could yet be moved to a free date in the LPGA calendar in July.

Aspirational

Some outside-the-box thinking from all of the main golf organisations has gone into the restructuring of the Majors, although - with the effects of the Covid-19 on-going - nothing can be certain of taking place. In truth, the moves are aspirational; with only the R&A taking the most extreme option of cancelling this year’s scheduled British Open championship at Sandwich and moving it back to 2021, on July 11th-18th. St Andrews will, as intended, play host to the 150th staging of golf’s oldest championship, a year later than originally planned, in 2022.

“Our absolute priority is to protect the health and safety of the fans, players, officials, volunteers and staff involved in the Open. We care deeply about this historic Championship and have made this decision with a heavy heart. We appreciate that this will be disappointing for a great many people around the world but this pandemic is severely affecting the UK and we have to act responsibly, it is the right thing to do,” said the R&A’s chief executive Martin Slumber, who assured ticket-holders that tickets and hospitality packages purchased for this year will be transferred over to 2021.

Slumbers added: “I can assure everybody that we have explored every option for playing the Open this year but it is not going to be possible.”

Rory McIlroy could be set for a busy end to the 2020 calendar. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty
Rory McIlroy could be set for a busy end to the 2020 calendar. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty

The R&A’s decision, similar to the one taken by the organisers to Wimbledon to cancel the tennis championship rather than seek an alternative date later in the year, at least provides clarity. The championship won’t be taking place. And as defending champion Shane Lowry observed, “Obviously I’m very sad and disappointed that the R&A have had to cancel but, at the end of the day, people’s health and safety come before any golf tournament.”

Where the R&A has made a decisive call, the other organisations - the USGA who run the US Open, the PGA of America who run the US PGA and the Ryder Cup, and Augusta National Golf Club, who host the Masters - have sought to reschedule for later in the year.

The move of the Masters to a later date in November, meaning it will be the last of the four men’s Majors rather than the first, is actually its only sensible option in that it is far too hot in Augusta during the summer months, when the course is closed.

Unprecedented

In recognising the “extraordinary and unprecedented challenges” presented by the virus, Fred Ridley, the chairman of Augusta National, said the date of November 9th-15th had come in collaboration with the other golfing organisations. “(We) will continue to focus on all mandated precautions and guidelines to fight against the coronavirus . . . we want to emphasise that our future plans are incumbent upon favourable counsel and direction from health officials.”

The Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits has remained unchanged amid all the date-changing, retaining its September 25th-27th slot. One big difference, however, is that it will be immediately preceded by the US Open, which will be staged at Winged Foot in New York.

The European Tour has encountered a huge level of disruption - with tournaments including the DDF Irish Open among those postponed - and is attempting to reschedule tournaments where possible.

Although not part of the official European Tour, the JP McManus Pro-Am set for Adare Manor in July, is a sell-out and features the world’s top players including Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm and Tiger Woods.

The organisers continue to monitor the situation but admit any decision to proceed “may be out of our control but we will at all times prioritise the health and safety of our attendees, players, staff, volunteers and everybody associated with the event.”

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