A fast-moving 90-minute wave of announcements Tuesday afternoon added to the uncertain 2020 men’s pro golf schedule. Given the evolving measures taken to try to combat the coronavirus pandemic, we did not need a group of press releases to know the next few months in golf were going to look different. While it’s now official, golf’s governing bodies added clarity only to the fact there will be no golf until at least mid-May.
Let’s get to the nuts and bolts of what we do know now:
1. First came the USGA, announcing at 4 p.m. ET that local qualifying for the U.S. Open and qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Open would be canceled. Two other championships, the men’s and women’s Amateur Four-Ball, were cancelled for 2020. The qualifying process for the U.S. Open is one that makes the national championship stand out, and was the impetus for their new slogan, “From many, one.” There will not be as many this year with local stage canceled. That leaves sectional qualifying, the stage full of mostly tour pros and other exempt players, still on the schedule (for now) for early June. The USGA said they are still “holding the dates” for the U.S. Open scheduled for June 18-21 in New York, but the likelihood of that major championship happening then and there seems to decrease each day.
2. At 5:12 p.m. ET, James Corrigan of The Telegraph tweeted his report that the Ryder Cup is expecting to move to 2021. With a late September date, this came as the most surprising potential change during an otherwise expected wave of spring cancellations and postponements. Corrigan wrote of the “rapidly contracting” schedule and the desire to not jam the bonanza that is the Ryder Cup into whatever patchwork schedule comes out for the second half of the year. The Ryder Cup is co-managed by the PGA of America and the European Tour, and Corrigan added the bodies are “ready to replicate the decision of 19 years ago” when the match play event was pushed back a year after the 9/11 attacks. The Ryder Cup USA Twitter account shortly followed with a tweet saying the report was not accurate.
3. At 5:15 p.m. ET, it was the PGA of America’s turn to postpone the second men’s major of the year, the PGA Championship. This was a formality given the mid-May date in a locale, TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, that’s already been hard hit by coronavirus spread. Rumors have run rampant about a re-location of the PGA Championship. For now, like the Masters, it is postponed until later in the year with Harding Park still the planned venue. PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh said he looked “forward to hopefully bringing the 2020 PGA Championship to TPC Harding Park at a date this summer when it is once again safe and responsible to do so.”
4. At 5:30 p.m. ET, it was the PGA Tour’s turn to cancel its upcoming schedule. Last Thursday night at the Players Championship, after playing the first round at TPC Sawgrass, the Tour promptly cancelled the rest of The Players and then the next three events, the Valspar Championship, the WGC Match Play, and the Valero Texas Open. That put us at the Masters, which announced a day later it was postponing the April tournament. Now comes the post-Masters slate on the PGA Tour schedule, four events — The Heritage, Zurich Classic, Wells Fargo Championship, and the Byron Nelson — cancelled. That means the PGA Tour is cancelled through May 10, with the aforementioned PGA Championship for the following week postponed.
Some conclusions from the 90-minute wave of changes to the golf calendar:
- With the Tour announcement and the Masters and PGA both postponed, we know there will be no men’s pro golf in the United States until at least May 18.
- Golf is not like the NBA or MLB in that there is no central body that owns or operates all these events. The four majors are all run by four separate organizations, and then there’s the PGA Tour running almost everything in between, including The Players and FedExCup Playoffs. The Ryder Cup is a jointly-run party on both sides of the Atlantic. The pecking order can be a point of debate, aside from Augusta National, which puts the heaviest thumb on the scale and can worry about the others reacting to whatever they decide. There can be tension between these organizations. But this has been a relatively peaceful era and it would appear all “five families” (PGA Tour, PGA of America, USGA, R&A, Augusta), as they’re called, are working together to figure out how to salvage a schedule over the summer and second half of the year. It’s not exactly heartwarming, but it’s encouraging if you’re a golf fan who would like to see majors scheduled and played later this year pending a containment of the pandemic. Eamon Lynch reported in Golfweek later Tuesday night that these organizations are, in fact, frantically working together on a new schedule.
- The PGA Tour is likely taking the biggest hit. They have already canceled eight events, with more potentially coming, and may have to get out of the way for re-scheduled major championships in the back half of the year.
- Corrigan also wrote of the Ryder Cup’s desire to also get out of years with the Olympics, which now has golf in the games. Every other Ryder Cup falls in an Olympics year and, per Corrigan, they’d prefer to have a longer runway (and more potential ad dollars) by getting back to the odd numbered years it had been in prior to the 9/11 attacks. This, of course, would then impact the Presidents Cup, the other team match play competition that’s currently played in odd numbered years. That is a PGA Tour run event and it would again be the Tour taking a hit or getting out of the way for a higher priority event.
- No one knows anything certain about the future schedule, not even those making the decisions in these organizations. The rumors around a Masters re-scheduling have run the gamut in the week since that postponement announcement. More of the same will be floated for the others now and nothing seems close to final with a global health crisis that’s not operating on set schedule or with an easily predictable path.