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2020 British Open canceled because of coronavirus pandemic

The Open set for July at Royal St. George’s is canceled and now a wave of new dates for the remaining majors is expected to be announced shortly.

The Open Qualifying Series - South African Open Photo by Johan Rynners/R&A/R&A via Getty Images

UPDATE on 4/6/20: It is official. The 2020 Open Championship is canceled. The R&A released a statement Monday morning saying the 149th Open scheduled for this July has been canceled and that it would be pushed back one year to July of 2021 at the same venue, Royal St. George’s in southern England. The R&A also clarified that The Old Course at St. Andrews would then keep the 150th Open celebration, which will now take place in 2022 instead of next year.

The R&A added they will transfer over tickets and hospitality packages for this year to 2021 and those who cannot or do not wish to attend will get a full refund. The Chief Executive of the R&A, Martin Slumbers, added this to the statement:

“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.

I can assure everyone that we have explored every option for playing The Open this year but it is not going to be possible.

There are many different considerations that go into organising a major sporting event of this scale. We rely on the support of the emergency services, local authorities and a range of other organisations to stage the Championship and it would be unreasonable to place any additional demands on them when they have far more urgent priorities to deal with.”

This is now expected to trigger a wave of schedule changes and updates for the rest of the men’s pro golf season, largely outlined in a Golfweek report last week. The PGA Championship, per Golfweek and an SF Chronicle report on Sunday night, is expected to be scheduled for August 6-9, remaining at Harding Park in San Francisco.

The U.S. Open at Winged Foot in New York is expected to be scheduled in mid-September, from the 17th to the 20th. This was likely the spot the British Open would have occupied had it just been postponed instead of canceled. Read below for more on the insurance policy that might have prompted the outright cancelation across the pond.

The Ryder Cup is expected to be played on its original date, the week right after that re-scheduled U.S. Open in mid September. The Masters would take a slot in November.

As for the PGA Tour, Joel Beall of Golf Digest reports that it is planning to re-start its schedule without fans at the Memorial in June. The Golfweek report last week indicated the Tour’s FedExCup and Tour Championship would be conducted in the weeks of August following that PGA Championship, with the finale coming on Labor Day.

The first outright cancelation of a 2020 men’s golf major due to the coronavirus pandemic will be the British Open, according to a report from Golf Digest. The report came late Wednesday night in the United States, with Joel Beall and Brian Wacker citing multiple sources that the oldest major championship in golf, scheduled for mid-July, will not take place this year. They added that the decision could be formally announced as early as Thursday, April 2.

The Golf Digest report indicates the R&A, the governing body that operates the Open, was waiting for Wimbledon to cancel its 2020 championships, and that became official on Wednesday. The first two men’s majors of the season, the Masters (originally scheduled for April) and PGA Championship (May), were postponed. The third, the U.S. Open, will be postponed as well, according to a New York Post report last week. The Open, the fourth major of the men’s golf calendar, will not opt for a similar postponement.

The reason for this decision in contrast with the other three men’s majors has to do with The Open’s insurance policy, according to the report. The R&A has a policy, like Wimbledon, that covers a pandemic but they would have to cancel by a certain date in order to trigger and collect under the policy. A source told Digest that the R&A is the “most insured” of the major tournaments.

The PGA Tour in the U.S. has already canceled eight weeks of events so far, running from mid-March into mid-May. It’s likely that organization will cancel more as the pandemic continues in the United States. But it had been reported that golf’s major organizations, the “five families,” were working in concert to try and prioritize the four majors in a potential makeshift schedule over the second half of the year. The Open, however, separated itself from those “five families” coordination efforts and will reportedly go a different route from the first three Stateside majors.

This would be the first year The Open will not be played since a cancelation in 1945 during World War II. The first round was scheduled to start on July 16 at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in southern England. It would be the 149th edition of The Open.

The 150th edition was purposefully set next year at The Old Course at St. Andrews, otherwise known as the “home of golf” and the R&A’s most cherished venue in the Open rota. The Old Course typically hosts every five years but it was pushed back a year for the symmetry of this 150th celebration. There’s been speculation from across the pond that holding the 150th Open at this venue was a major priority for the R&A, but the Digest report added that it is not expected that each future site is pushed back one year. St. George’s will be skipped entirely and The Old Course would still have the 2021 Open, according to the report.

For now, the U.S. Open remains scheduled for its mid-June date outside New York City. Rumors and sleuthing attempts have been hyping a potential mid-October Masters at Augusta National and the PGA is reportedly still committed to keeping its 2020 men’s major at Harding Park in San Francisco at some later date.