- Alistair Tait
R&A leads the way with right major move
Well done to Martin Slumbers and the R&A for making the right move to cancel this year's Open Championship. What are the organisers of the three other majors thinking?
Cancelling this year's Open Championship has been on the cards for at least three weeks. It was just a matter of time, the delay caused by sorting through the massive insurance details involved in cancelling the game's greatest tournament. As I said a few days ago, the R&A made the wise choice to take full insurance on its marquee tournament. The governing body will be reimbursed in full for losing this year's championship, which means it won’t have to cut back on money it spends on growing the game. That insurance policy, similar to Wimbledon's, looks a wise move now.
It's also a wise move to keep Royal St George's as next in line to stage the Open. The 149th championship will be staged over the Sandwich links next year, with the 150th slated for St Andrews in 2022. That's as it should be.
The Open brings huge economic benefit to areas it visits. The Kent region was looking forward to that cash injection; it's right that it won't miss out by getting next year's championship. Keeping the 150th at St Andrews is a no brainer: the Old Course deserves to honour the Open on that historic anniversary.
R&A CEO Slumbers deserves credit for not trying to cobble a championship together later this year. We don't know what the world is going to look like when we eventually emerge from this coronavirus nightmare. Our emergency services could still be in high demand, which is why Slumbers was right to make the following statement:
“There are many different considerations that go into organising a major sporting event of this scale. We rely on the support of the emergency services, local authorities and a range of other organisations and it would be unreasonable to place any additional demands on them when they have far more urgent priorities to deal with.”
Potential travel restrictions and extended social distancing policies further backs up Slumbers’ move. Which brings us to the other three majors.
Quite why Augusta National, the USGA and PGA of America have announced rescheduled dates at this point is beyond me for the very reasons I've given above. Do these bodies have some sort of crystal ball that enables them to see what the world will look like post coronavirus?
The Masters is slated for the week of November 9th. Augusta chairman Fred Ridley said:
“We want to emphasise that our future plans are incumbent upon favourable counsel and direction from health officials. Provided that occurs and we can conduct the 2020 Masters, we intend to invite those professionals and amateurs who would have qualified for our original April date and welcome all existing ticket holders to enjoy the excitement of Masters week.
“We remain very mindful of the extraordinary and unprecedented challenges presented by coronavirus around the world. As such, we continue to keep in close contact with local, state and national health authorities to help inform our decisions.”
The U.S. Open has a new date of 17-20th September, while the PGA Championship at Harding Park in San Francisco has been re-scheduled to 6-9 August, despite California governor Gavin Newsom batting down President Trump’s dream of full spectator sport starting in August or September.
“I’m not anticipating that happening in this state,” Newsom said. “We have to be careful not to over-promise.”
I agree. I think organisers of the three U.S. majors have jumped the gun. We need to wait this thing out before we start making plans for something as trivial right now as golf, even if we are talking major championships.
The R&A doesn’t always get things exactly right, but the governing body is spot on this time.