Paul Lawrie and Sandy Lyle back Open cancellation

Scotland’s former winners support R&A’s decision
Paul Lawrie celebrates with his family after his 1999 Open win at Carnoustie.Paul Lawrie celebrates with his family after his 1999 Open win at Carnoustie.
Paul Lawrie celebrates with his family after his 1999 Open win at Carnoustie.

Former winners Sandy Lyle and Paul Lawrie have both backed the R&A’s decision to cancel the 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s in July due to the coronavirus rather than postponing until later in the year as the three other men’s majors have done.

On a whirlwind day for golf, confirmation that the Open will not be held this year for the first time since 1945 was swiftly followed by revised dates being released for the US PGA Championship, US Open and the Masters.

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The US PGA Championship has been rescheduled for 6-9 August at Harding Park in San Francisco; the US Open is now due to take place at Winged Foot outside New York on 17-20 September and the Masters, scheduled to have been taking place this week, has been slotted in for 12-15 November.

Sandy Lyle receives the Claret Jug at Royal St George's after his 1985 Open triumph.Sandy Lyle receives the Claret Jug at Royal St George's after his 1985 Open triumph.
Sandy Lyle receives the Claret Jug at Royal St George's after his 1985 Open triumph.

The Scotsman understands the R&A considered a September slot for the Open but, after taking the current situation in the world into account and having seen a similar decision taken by the All England Club last week over Wimbledon, it was felt cancellation was the right option, albeit a call that was taken “with a heavy heart,” according to chief executive Martin Slumbers.

The 149th Open will now be played at Royal St George’s next year, with the celebratory 150th staging scheduled for the Old Course at St Andrews being pushed back to 2022. Lyle, who claimed the first of his two major victories at Royal St George’s in 1985, and Lawrie, the Claret Jug winner at Carnoustie in 1999, both believe it is the correct move.“It’s not until mid-July, but I don’t think we will be out of the woods anywhere near then the way things are going,” Lyle told The Scotsman, while Lawrie commented: “The safety and well-being of people comes way before any golf tournament at the moment and I suspect it will not be the only big event to not be played this year.”

Bob MacIntyre, the current Scottish No 1, had already secured a spot in the tournament in Kent after his joint-sixth finish behind Shane Lowry at Royal Portrush last summer. He said he was “obviously disappointed” about the cancellation but added: “This is bigger than golf, as most folk have said. The R&A have done what they think is right and that’s something everyone has to agree with and move on and look forward to 2021.”

The last time the Open wasn’t played was 75 years ago due to the Second World War, with Slumbers insisting the decision on this occasion was taken on the grounds of “health and safety” at a time when the UK is in lockdown due to the coronavirus.

“We care deeply about this historic championship and have made this decision with a heavy heart,” he said. “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.”

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The event is covered in terms of insurance for a pandemic such as the coronavirus, but The Scotsman understands the decision wasn’t based on that alone and that it also didn’t have to be made by a certain date for that to kick in.

Reigning champion Shane Lowry echoed the views of Lyle, Lawrie and MacIntyre about the decision, saying: “Obviously I’m disappointed that I won’t get to defend the Open Championship this year. But I feel the R&A have made the right decisions based on people’s health and safety. See you all at Royal St George’s in 2021.”

The R&A will transfer over tickets and hospitality packages purchased for the Championship in 2020 to the Open in 2021. Purchasers who no longer wish to (or are no longer able to) attend in 2021 will receive a full refund. Further information on this process will be sent directly to ticket and hospitality purchasers in due course.

The R&A’s remaining professional and amateur championships scheduled this year are under review and updates will be given on any further changes. These include the AIG Women’s British Open, which is due to be played at Royal Troon in August.

Meanwhile, in addition to the revised dates for the three other men’s majors, it is claimed the PGA Tour aims to get back up and running with the staging of the Memorial Tournament behind closed doors in mid-June.