It was as though we’d been let out of primary school for a first day of summer holidays. Golf journalists the world over, me included, could not get the news out quick enough.
No matter what time it was or where you were in the world, we rushed to the normal social media sites before cut-and-pasting statements into our written stories heralding the sad news emanating from the Home of Golf at St. Andrews.
First it was golf’s oldest Major being cancelled to next year and thus totally throwing out the window the R&As already well-in-place 150th celebration plans for July 2021 at the Home of Golf.
No sooner had those not directly involved in golf retweeted your precious tweet and we had defending Open Champion, Shane Lowry hit the ‘tweet’ button and here was the Irishman, with the Claret Jug sitting on the table beside him at his rented BallenIsles residence at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida, speaking of his disappointment in not being able to defend his Open Championship starting July 16th at Royal St. George’s.
Lowry had first spoken of his fear of such a scenario being met to this journalist around 9am (local time) on the Friday in the TPC Sawgrass locker room of the now cancelled Players Championship.
He jokingly made a sign off comment: “I guess, if they do call off The Open I will get to be Open Champion for two years and I will have to go celebrating again!”
I wondered when was the last occasion, apart from World War II, that the winner of a major sporting event has had his or her defence postponed for a year.
But then no time to ponder on that question because exactly 21-minutes later an email dropped from the PGA Tour with the subject “Press release on behalf of the leading organisations in the golf industry”.
We now know it was confirmation that the US Open, set down for early June, was being rescheduled to 17-20 September plus further confirmation of the R&A’s decision along with confirmation that the PGA Championship was moving to an August 6-9 slot.
And there was the confirmation we all sought with those who administer the Masters, traditionally the first Major of a new season, advising the 43rd Masters will now be the last in 2020 to be held from 12-15 November.
November? Yes, November. I’ve been in Georgia in November on three or four occasions and, in fact, was present for the 1998 Sarazen World Open at Chateau Elan located to the north of Atlanta, the last time the tournament was held in the States before moving the next year for the final time in its history to Spain.
Let me tell you now, Georgia in November is not a match on Georgia in April. I remember it being cold and miserable, and it rained, and it got dark early. You think the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is cold as you sit back in the comfort of your heated living room, then try Georgia in November.
The likes of World No. 1 Rory McIlroy and even defending Masters champ, Tiger Woods could look unrecognisable under layers of clothing in stepping onto the first tee at a flowerless and winter-like Augusta National.
The unprecedented ‘joint’ press statement also confirmed the LPGA had managed to reschedule their first two majors of the year (the ANA Inspiration moving to the week of September 7 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California; and the U.S. Women’s Open to the week of December 7 at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas).
And rounding off the statement was news that the 2020 Ryder Cup will not be moving to 2021 and this despite so many calls by so many former Ryder Cup captains and current players alike suggesting it best be pushed back a year to 2021.
I now have two points to raise.
Do golf’s leading administrators know something the World Health Organisation (WHO) doesn’t?
Yes, it’s staying optimistic in rescheduling leading golf tournaments to later in the year but tell me if I am wrong but has the WHO released any statement to say that the world as a whole will be able to go back to what we were doing less than a month ago?
Will it also be safe in September, October and the second week of November to play any form of sport?
And as I type this, the Coronavirus pandemic has affected 1.35m people around the world and tragically taken the lives of nearly 75,000.
My other question concerns the decision by the R&A not to postpone but cancel this year’s Open Championship to 2021 and here I am referring to an article that appeared last Monday week in Golf Digest USA.
It was a small reference but could turn to big news as the R&A has in place an insurance policy that covers cancellation of The Open due to a pandemic and it’s understood to be multi-million Pound pay-out based on spectators earnings.
The 2019 Open Championship attracted 237,750 fans through the Royal Portrush entry gates.