US PGA and US Open fields could be ‘diluted’ in new 2020 slots
While not convinced they will go ahead, Ewen Murray believes the fields for the US PGA Championship and US Open are likely to be “diluted” in their new slots on the revamped 2020 schedule.
Originally scheduled for May before being postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the US PGA Championship is now set to be played on 6-9 August at Harding Park in San Francisco.
The US Open, meanwhile, has been moved from June to 17-20 September at Winged Foot, where the USGA event is scheduled to be played a week before the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.
The changes to the 2020 calendar, which also included the Masters being moved to 12-15 November, were announced at the same time as the R&A decided to cancel the 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s in July.
The Claret Jug event has been moved back 12 months at the Kent venue, with the 150th staging now set to be celebrated at St Andrews in 2022.
“It is a very good question and one I don’t think anyone knows the answer to,” said Murray, the Sky Sports Golf commentator, in reply to being asked if he felt the three rescheduled US majors will be played in the new slots.
“I can see the Masters making it, but I am no expert in a scientific field and this pandemic we are going through could last a year, it could finish in three or four weeks, nobody knows. But I think that has an opportunity of going ahead.
“I applaud the R&A for pulling the Open and saying ‘no’ to that this year. I think a lot of people don’t understand just how much goes into putting on the Open Championship and how long it takes.
“The preparation for the Open Championship begins the day after the previous one has just finished and here we are in the middle of April and people look at the middle of July and think, ‘we could still have done that’.
“If we had gone ahead and tried to do it, I think we would have had a diluted Open Championship, which I don’t think anyone wants. Starting back in 1860, it has the history and the tradition and we expect the Open to be as it is every year. Had it gone ahead, I don’t think it would be the Open as we know it. I can see the Masters being as we know it, minus the azaleas in November. The weather is quite similar at that time of the year as it is in April.
“You also have a smaller field in the Masters, probably somewhere around 95 players whereas the Open is 156 and you need all the daylight hours to be able to get all those players around.
“It’s a championship that is played from the first tee, not two-tee starts. Had we gone later in the year, even with a reduced field, it would have required a two-tee start and that’s just not the Open.” Edinburgh-born Murray, pictured, who was speaking in a YouTube video interview with Bruntsfield Links PGA professional Richard Brian, added: “I feel the same way with the PGA and the US Open.
“If you look at the Open and US Open, there are qualifying processes. In America, they have sectional qualifying that goes on to final qualifying. How are you going to manage to do that? How are you then going to make the field up?
“And, if you don’t, it takes away the name Open. Open means if you are good enough, you can go and have a bash at qualifying and you get the fairytale stories we’ve had down the years from the Open and US Open. So that would be lost.
“The PGA field is done pretty much off the world rankings. We haven’t been playing, so the world rankings are going to be from March and, if we aren’t going to get much golf played, are these rankings going to change? Probably not.
“I think the R&A did exactly the right thing by saying we will go to Royal St George’s next year. It will be the 149th Open Championship and we will return to St Andrews the following year to celebrate the 150th.
“We’ll see what happens [about the other majors]. I think the Masters has a chance, but I’m not sure about the other two.”
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