Everything we know so far about the strangest golf season in history.
Two months after the golf season was put on hold by Coronavirus, this year’s Open in Sandwich has been cancelled, we are no closer to knowing when the European Tour will return, or whether the Ryder Cup will even go ahead in September.
The good news is that the Masters, US PGA and US Open have all been rescheduled and while there is still the small matter of border restrictions and spectator-less tournaments, we may get to enjoy some golf this summer after all. This is what we know so far...
1. Why cancel The Open but not the other majors?
It all comes down to economics and the cost of cancelling the Masters, US Open and US PGA Championship. The R&A has a global pandemic insurance policy which is almost identical to Wimbledon’s, meaning it will be reimbursed for losses. Augusta, the USGA and PGA of America are not so lucky.
2. I had tickets for The Open – can I get a refund?
The R&A has said all tickets and hospitality packages will be transferred over to next year, with full refunds for those who are unable, or do not wish, to attend.
3. Have the Senior Open and Women's Open been postponed?
The Senior Open at Sunningdale has been postponed, but not cancelled, for the time being. The Women’s British Open at Royal Troon is still set to start on August 20, while both the Men’s and Women’s Amateur Championships have been moved from June to the week commencing August 24.
4. Is a US PGA Championship in August realistic?
California Governor Gavin Newsom has said the prospect of holding mass gatherings in the state any earlier than September is “unlikely”, which would rule out playing the PGA at TPC Harding Park.
PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh told the PGA Tour that other options are being considered, which include moving the event to another state or holding it without spectators.
5. What does that mean for the US Open?
The worsening situation in New York makes it hard to see how the US Open can take place at Winged Foot the week before the Ryder Cup. Valhalla in Kentucky, Hazeltine in Minnesota and Riviera in California are among the back-up options being considered to play the event in December, though shorter daylight hours would mean limiting an already-reduced field of 144 players considerably.
6. What will Augusta National look and play like for a Masters in November?
The azaleas won’t be in full bloom and you can almost guarantee Tiger’s back won’t like the much cooler temperatures. The prevailing wind also switches to the north in November, which means the first hole and three of the par 5s will play a lot longer and negate the advantage of the bigger hitters.
Experts reckon the closest thing we have to a reference is the 2007 Masters, an unusually cold and windy affair, which was won by Zach Johnson after he laid up on every par 5. His winning score of one over par is the joint highest in Masters history.
7. How has the European Tour been affected by Coronavirus?
Members have been told to expect smaller prize funds when the season resumes, which could see three or four tournaments played back-to- back in the UK with a 14-day ‘quarantine’ period.
In a memo to players, chief executive Keith Pelley warned that “sacrifices would need to be made” to this season’s schedule and next, and that the Rolex Series and UK events would take priority first. He also made it clear that “all options”, including playing tournaments behind closed doors, were being considered to avoid redundancies and meet the demands of sponsors and broadcasters. These include: Playing multiple tournaments in the same week, two tournaments at the same venue, or three in the space of fortnight.
8. Are golfers and caddies being supported financially?
Pelley has admitted the European Tour are “simply not in a position” to assist players and caddies, while the PGA EuroPro Tour has already cancelled its entire 2020 season. LET star Meghan MacLaren has also revealed she knows players who have applied for temporary jobs at supermarkets to help pay the bills.
9. Will the Ryder Cup be postponed?
Organisers insist this year’s event will go ahead – with or without fans – at Whistling Straits in September. But without a meaningful qualification period, the make-up of both the US and European teams could well be decided by 12 captain’s picks. Padraig Harrington is apparently supportive, but that might be because he’s only allowed three picks to Steve Stricker’s four under the current format.
10. When will the golf season restart?
The PGA Tour are “very confident” they will be able to resume their season with the Charles Schwab Challenge on June 11. According to The Guardian, they hope to take delivery of up to one million coranavirus testing kits, and plan to play at least the first four events behind closed doors.
However, the European Tour is not expected to restart until August at the earliest.