AFP New York, United States
A Masters among the fall leaves, the US Open and Ryder Cup on back-to-back weeks and the PGA Championship in its former spot are on tap in golf’s 2020 coronavirus rescheduling plan.
Moments after the 149th Open Championship was postponed until 2021, golf’s major tournament organizers and tours issued a joint statement announcing a revamped lineup of dates as a result of postponements due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The British Open has been cancelled for the first time since World War II due to the coronavirus.
The 149th Open was scheduled to take place at Royal St George’s Golf Club in Kent in July.
But with the pandemic ripping the 2020 sporting schedule to shreds, the event has became the first of the sport’s four majors to be cancelled this year.
Golf’s oldest major will now be hosted at the same Sandwich venue in July 2021.
The PGA Championship, which had been postponed from May, was rescheduled for August 6-9 to remain at Harding Park in San Francisco.
The US Open was rescheduled from June to September 17-20 with the Ryder Cup to be contested one week later at Whistling Straits as scheduled.
The Masters, which was to have been played this week among the blooming spring flowers at Augusta National, has been rescheduled for November 12-15. It was postponed on March 13.
“We hope the anticipation of staging the Masters Tournament in the fall brings a moment of joy to the Augusta community and all those who love the sport,” Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said.
Organizers emphasized that the new dates depend upon safe conditions for players and spectators in the wake of the deadly virus outbreak.
The US PGA Tour rebooked its regular-season finale, the Wyndham Championship, for August 13-16 with the season-ending tour playoffs to follow over the next three weeks, concluding with the Tour Championship in Atlanta on September 4-7.
“We want to reiterate that Augusta National Golf Club, European Tour, LPGA, PGA of America, PGA Tour, The R&A and USGA collectively value the health and well-being of everyone within the game of golf and beyond, above all else,” the statement said.
The Masters will be played, health conditions permitting, outside of April for the first time in the event’s history, which began in 1934.
Another Masters will be scheduled in its usual date for April 2021, making the Augusta National classic the last major of 2020 and the first of 2021.
“We look forward to the championship returning in full strength next spring,” Ridley said.
The same field of players that would have competed this week at the Masters will be used for the November date, which comes only a few weeks after the course reopens following summer closure.
“We want to emphasise that our future plans are incumbent upon favorable counsel and direction from health officials,” Ridley said.
“As such, we continue to keep in close contact with local, state and national health authorities to help inform our decisions.”
The Augusta National Women’s Amateur, an event that began last year, was cancelled for 2020 but each woman who accepted an invitation to the event will be invited to compete in 2021, provided she remains an amateur.
Giving ‘healing, hope’
The US Open moved back more than three months in hopes conditions in the New York area, the epicentre of the US pandemic outbreak, will be better in late September.
“We are hopeful that postponing the championship will offer us the opportunity to mitigate health and safety issues while still providing us with the best opportunity to conduct the US Open this year,” US Golf Association chief executive Mike Davis said.
“We are incredibly thankful to the membership and staff at Winged Foot for their flexibility and support.”
PGA of America chief executive Seth Waugh said his major, now set to be the first of the year, should help in the global recovery from isolating measures to safeguard people from the virus.
“Sports, and particularly the game of golf, are important vehicles for healing and hope,” Waugh said.
“We will continue to follow the guidance of public health officials, but are hopeful that it will be safe and responsible to conduct the PGA Championship in August and the Ryder Cup as planned.”
US Outlaw Tour gives golfers events despite coronavirus
There are desert rain downpours and tee box confusion with top prizes of only $4,500 (4,167 euros), but golf’s Outlaw Tour is playing through in Arizona despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The four-year-old men’s developmental circuit typically attracts players in their 20s for 54-hole mid-week events with entry fees of $775-$875 and is set to play four final season events in April.
With almost every other sports league in the United States and worldwide shut down amid safety precautions for the deadly Covid-19 virus, the Outlaw Tour keeps going thanks to golf courses being declared an “essential business” in the state.
After two events since the PGA Tour halted play, the Outlaw Tour will stage the Orange Tree Classic at Scottsdale, Arizona, starting Tuesday with an 80-player field over a 6,739-yard layout.
The lineup features Germany’s 49-year-old Alex Cejka, who won the 2015 PGA Puerto Rico Open and four European Tour titles from 1995-2002. His best finish in 23 major starts was fourth at the 2003 PGA Championship.
Thomas Lehman and amateur Sean Lehman, sons of 1996 British Open champion and former world number one Tom Lehman, are also in the field.
“I think it’s a really safe thing to do,” 61-year-old Lehman told the PGA Tour website.
“Golf kind of has a built-in, social-distancing concept. You don’t get inside the other player’s space. You can play a round of golf with people and you don’t get up close and personal.”
Flagsticks stay in holes and no rakes are provided for bunkers. There are no handshakes or water coolers and players walking the course keep their distance from others to maintain social distancing guidelines.
Du Toit 59, DQ 14
At last week’s Verrado Founders Championship, Scotland’s Calum Hill, a 136th-ranked European Tour newcomer, closed with a 4-under par 68 to finish on 15-under 201 for a one-stroke victory over American Chris Korte.
But the big shocker came when 14 players were disqualified for playing off the wrong tee after a tee-box mix-up on a par-3 hole in the first round.
The tee was set up at 204 yards while scorecards showed the hole at 222 yards. The first group to reach the hole played off the wrong tee and others followed before the mistake was caught.
Three weeks ago at the Western Skies Classic in Gilbert, a heavy rain softened the course for Thursday’s final round, when Canadian Jared du Toit fired a bogey-free 59, making an eagle and nine birdies in the lowest round in Outlaw Tour history.
“I didn’t think about it too much until late,” du Toit said. “I had a good look on 17. I was mad at the time, it didn’t go in, because I would have loved to have been able to par 18.
“I got away with my tee shot. It finished close to the cart path. Had 105 yards in and hit a wedge to 6-7 feet and made it.”
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