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Major reshuffle in bid to salvage season

CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-04-08 09:14
Ireland's Shane Lowry with the Claret Jug trophy after winning the British Open at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland on July 21 last year. The organizers of the major, The Royal& Ancient, announced on Monday that they have decided to cancel this year's event, which had been scheduled for Royal St George's in southeast England, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The championship will next be played at the same venue in July 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Golf's top global governing bodies have announced a revised calendar of events in the hope of salvaging the currently suspended season, with the Masters, PGA Championship and US Open all postponed and the British Open canceled completely.

However, it's still to be determined when-or even if-golf can resume because of the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down sports worldwide.

Emphasizing that the health and safety of participants remain top priorities, Augusta National Golf Club, the European Tour, LPGA, PGA of America, PGA Tour, the Royal & Ancient and United States Golf Association on Monday issued a joint statement detailing the changes.

"In recent weeks, the global golf community has come together to collectively put forward a calendar of events that will, we hope, serve to entertain and inspire golf fans around the world," said the statement.

"We are grateful to our respective partners, sponsors and players, who have allowed us to make decisions-some of them, very tough decisions-in order to move the game and the industry forward."

Augusta National in Georgia hopes to stage the Masters, originally scheduled for April 6-12, from Nov 9-15, with the US Open, previously scheduled for June 15-21 at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, New York, rescheduled for Sept 14-20 at the same venue.

Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley stressed the Masters identified November as "intended dates".

"We hope the anticipation of staging the Masters in the fall brings a moment of joy to the Augusta community and all those who love the sport," Ridley said.

"We want to emphasize that our future plans are incumbent upon favorable counsel and direction from health officials."

The PGA Championship, originally scheduled for May 11-17, is now slated to take place Aug 3-9 and will remain at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, California.

The PGA Tour has tentatively planned to complete its FedEx Cup season close to schedule, with the Tour Championship finishing on Sept 7. It also is contemplating putting tournaments in dates that previously belonged to the US Open, British Open and Olympics.

"It's a complex situation, and we want to balance the commitments to our various partners with playing opportunities for our members-while providing compelling competition to our fans," PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

"But all of that must be done while navigating the unprecedented global crisis that is impacting every single one of us."

The PGA reconfirmed the Ryder Cup remains as originally scheduled, Sept 22-27, at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin.

Gian Paolo Montali, the general director for the 2022 Ryder Cup, said on Italian radio on Monday that officials faced a May deadline to postpone the Ryder Cup back to odd-numbered years (as it was before the matches were postponed by the Sept 11 terror attacks). He also said players have already vetoed a Ryder Cup without its raucous fans.

The European Tour is still working on its schedule "due to the many complexities involved" and "will make further announcements on these in due course".

The first two women's majors of the year have been rescheduled. The ANA Inspiration moves to the week of Sept 7 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California; and the US Women's Open moves to the week of Dec 7 at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas.

Perhaps the most drastic move is the complete cancellation of July's British Open for the first time since 1945. The R&A said the decision was taken "based on guidance from the UK government, the health authorities, public services and The R&A's advisers".

This year's event was due to be played at Royal St George's in southeast England, with R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers confirming that the 149th British Open will now be played at the same Kent course next year, with St Andrews in Scotland to host the 2022 edition.

"This is the first time since the World War II that golf's original championship, first played in 1860, has been canceled," said Slumbers, who added that the decision had been made with "a heavy heart".

"I can assure everyone that we have explored every option for playing The Open this year but it is not going to be possible," Slumbers said.

Irishman Shane Lowry gets to keep the Claret Jug longer than anyone since Dick Burton, who won in 1939 at St Andrews in the last British Open before World War II.

"You can trust me when I say the Claret Jug is going to be in safe hands for another year," Lowry said in a video tweet.

Summary of revised schedule:

-Aug 6-9: PGA Championship

-Aug 13-16: End of PGA Tour regular season at Wyndham Championship

-Aug 20-23: Start of FedEx Cup playoffs at The Northern Trust

-Aug 27-30: BMW Championship, second playoff event

-Sept 4-7: Tour Championship for the FedEx Cup

-Sept 17-20: US Open at Winged Foot

-Sept 25-27: Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits

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