Comment: It’s a major blow to lose the Open, especially if the big three in America go ahead

But cancellation of 2020 event looked inevitable from the moment tennis chiefs scrapped Wimbledon
Players won't be able to contest the Claret Jug until next summer at Royal St George's.  Picture: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.Players won't be able to contest the Claret Jug until next summer at Royal St George's.  Picture: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Players won't be able to contest the Claret Jug until next summer at Royal St George's. Picture: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.

Even though we had a feeling it was a possibility, it didn’t soften the blow. Not at all, in fact. It will be days, maybe even weeks, before the reality of there being no Open Championship this year for the first time since 1945 sinks in.

Deep down, we’d known for a week or so that the 149th staging of the game’s oldest major would not be taking place as scheduled at Royal St George’s in Kent in 
mid-July as the coronavirus claimed event after event around the world.

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Postponement seemed the likely option, a step that would have seen the R&A fall in line with Augusta National Golf Club and the PGA of America with The Masters and US PGA Championship respectively (and now the USGA as well with the US Open).

That was until golfdigest.com published a story towards the end of last week claiming cancellation was on the cards. “Why did everyone jump in response to that?”, I was asked by someone who works in the golf industry.

“It’s one of the most reputable media outlets in the business” was my answer to that and, though a statement issued in response to that mentioned postponement rather than cancellation, the 
latter had been the likelihood over the past few days.

Confirmation, of course, has been made all the more disappointing by the fact the three other men’s majors have indeed been rescheduled – the US PGA Championship in August, the US Open in September and The Masters in November.

“Why hasn’t the same thing been done for The Open” is the question being asked by many. Rightly so, too, because, in some respects, it is making the Claret Jug event look like a poor relation.

I understand that a September slot had been set aside for it in the revised schedule that has now been unveiled by the various bodies and tours, but, for a variety of reasons apparently, that just wasn’t going to work.

It could, for example, be that the UK Government is handing out 
different advice about major 
sporting events, with the tennis extravaganza at Wimbledon also having been cancelled as opposed to being postponed.

The minute that announcement was made last week you just had a feeling the same fate was in store for The Open, no matter what decisions had already been made about the other men’s majors on the other side of the Atlantic.

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We shouldn’t be following the Americans just for the sake of it, and certainly not when we are in the middle of a world health crisis, during which time debate about when sporting events might take place is well down the list in terms of things of importance.

Yes, of course, we’ll fill a huge void in July, as is the case this week, when we would all be gearing up for The Masters and a much-anticipated title defence by Tiger Woods. But that can wait. Whether it’s November or next April, it will be worth the wait.

The same goes for Shane Lowry’s defence of the Claret Jug. While not in the circumstances he’d have wanted, the Irishman will enjoy being Open champion for an extended period, with Royal St George’s being the rightful place for his defence.

That means St Andrews will now have to wait until 2022 to stage the 150th event, with the likelihood that the stagings at Royal Liverpool and Royal Troon will also be pushed back to 2023 and 2024 respectively.

As for those other majors, only time will tell if they take place in their new slots. On the one hand, 
it’s good they have been 
rescheduled, giving the world’s top players something to aim for 
during these unprecedented times for the sport.

But, on the other, we could still all end up suffering a massive dose of disappointment because, quite frankly, no-one knows when the world will be up and running again and, just in case someone has 
forgotten, golf is an international game with top players scattered all around the world.

Just because those three majors in the US have new dates doesn’t mean they will definitely go ahead and, even if they do, there’s a strong chance they won’t be the real thing, so to speak.

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