Every day we're taking a look at how specific sports have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Today, it's the turn of golf.
The Players Championship has been the biggest event cancelled to date, a decision taken after the first round had been completed. Organisers had originally planned to stage the last three rounds behind closed doors at Sawgrass but were forced into a rethink by the rapidly developing situation. Seven of the following eight regular events on the PGA Tour have also been cancelled, while two regular European Tour events have also been scrapped.
The postponement of the Olympics until 2021 affects the men’s and women’s golf competitions, scheduled for July 30-August 2 and August 5-8 respectively.
Two of the season’s Majors, The Masters and US PGA Championship, have been postponed and not yet rescheduled. An early October date for The Masters has been rumoured, while PGA of America officials hope to stage the US PGA at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco “at a date this summer”. The first women’s Major of the year, the ANA Inspiration, which had been scheduled for April 2-5 at Mission Hills Country Club in California, will take place at the same venue from September 10-13.
Six European Tour events have been postponed and not yet rescheduled. The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, due to be hosted by Graeme McDowell at Mount Juliet from May 28-31, is the next possible event on the schedule.
The US Open is due to take place at Winged Foot from June 18-21, but the course is just five miles away from the coronavirus containment zone set up in New Rochelle, New York and governor Andrew Cuomo ordered non-essential businesses to close from Sunday evening, putting a stop to preparations. A decision on staging the tournament is expected in mid-April.
The R&A said last week they are proceeding as planned to stage The Open at Royal St George’s from July 16-19 and the AIG Women’s British Open at Royal Troon from August 20-23, but were undertaking a “comprehensive evaluation” of plans and considering contingency options.
Officials were quick to describe a report that the Ryder Cup would be postponed by a year as “inaccurate” and time is at least on their side given that the biennial contest is scheduled for September 25-27.
More individual events are likely to be postponed or cancelled but the golfing calendar effectively runs year-round so tournaments will be in place when the go-ahead is given.
One of the options reportedly under consideration by the European Tour would be to squeeze three tournaments into a two-week period, with an event played from Monday to Thursday followed by a day’s break, another running Saturday to Tuesday followed by a day’s break and then a third from Thursday to Sunday.
A possible October date for The Masters would clash with the Italian Open, one of the European Tour’s prestigious Rolex Series events,. That would severely weaken the field for the £5.9m tournament but it would likely go ahead, offering a valuable playing opportunity for lower-ranked players who would otherwise have missed out.
The LPGA has more open weeks than other tours and has been able to reschedule the ANA Inspiration by moving the tournament originally scheduled for its new date to the following week. It has also been suggested that two postponed LPGA tournaments could be combined, creating a doubled prize fund.
The postponement of the Olympics opens up a week on the PGA Tour schedule — possibly for a Major — but not on the European Tour, which has scheduled the British Masters for the same week as the men’s competition in Tokyo.