The organizations that run the major championships along with the PGA Tour and European Tour are working collaboratively to put together a late summer/fall schedule in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nothing is official, and the various entities appear to be waiting on a decision from the R&A, which runs The Open and is still considering a postponement or even cancellation of the world’s oldest tournament, currently set for July 16-19 at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England.
Once that decision is made, there will be clarity on where the various events can be slotted, with Golfweek reporting that the Ryder Cup still could be played in its late September slot (Sept 25-27) with the Masters potentially being played in November. A source told ESPN that the PGA Championship is eyeing an early August date, with the Wyndham Championship and FedEx Cup playoffs to follow.
“The intent is to have clarity soon,” Craig Annis, the United States Golf Association’s chief brand officer told ESPN on Thursday. “People are dealing with a lot of challenging things financially, health-wise and as much as they are excited about golf, we know where their priorities are. The more we can figure out about what the future might look like and plan for that, the better off everyone will be.”
Annis said the USGA is faced with a difficult decision regarding the U.S. Open, scheduled for June 18-21 at Winged Foot in suburban New York.
“The likelihood decreases every day to have the tournament at Winged Foot in June,” Annis said. “We’re going to be making a decision by nearly next week as to whether or not we postpone. And then obviously working together with our broadcast partners, the PGA Tour and other organizing bodies to figure out when other viable spots will be open.
“And that’s all going to inform our decision next week. Trying to figure out when or if there has to be postponements. And cancellations. Also what makes sense from a broadcast perspective, those are all the things we’re working on now. Ideally we’ll get to a place where we can share a same view.”
The R&A decision appears to be key.
Golfweek, citing sources, said the likely date for a rescheduled Open would be Sept. 17-20 at Royal St. George’s — the week before the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. If The Open decides to cancel — which is being considered — that date would then be a possibility for the U.S. Open, still at Winged Foot.
Should The Open take that date, then the U.S. Open might be looking at a later timeslot — thus pushing the Masters into November, which Golfweek reported could be Nov. 12-15. And if the U.S. Open goes later, Annis acknowledged that could mean looking at other venues, specifically in the West to better utilize daylight hours.
“Safety absolutely comes first,” Annis said. “If you look back a couple of weeks ago, we stopped the build at Winged Foot when the CDC recommended no more than 50 people in one place. Doesn’t that seem like a long time ago? We didn’t want to put any people who were coming on-site at risk. And all of that will dictate whether or not we pivot from June to another date.
“And what dictates where [it is held] is when that other date is. If it’s in the window of the early part of fall and we’re in the Northeast, and assuming that all of the health and safety considerations are right, you could have it at Winged Foot in the fall. If it goes deeper into the fall, that is going [to have] us look at other locations.
“All of this is linked to agronomy, climate, weather, daylight. When we play the U.S. Open [in June], it’s almost peak daylight. When you move away from that, you have to factor that in as well. We have 156 players, how do you get them around? All of these things come together and they are all factors that we are considering.”
Annis did not name any venues, but Golfweek reported that California courses Pebble Beach — which held the 2019 U.S. Open — and Torrey Pines, where the U.S. Open is scheduled in 2021 — are possibilities.
As for the PGA Championship, which has been postponed from its May date at Harding Park in San Francisco, a source told ESPN that Aug. 6-9 is being considered, a week now occupied by the Wyndham Championship. The Wyndham, Northern Trust, BMW Championship and Tour Championship would all potentially move back a week, with the “season-ending” event in Atlanta played over Labor Day weekend. It is unclear if the PGA Tour would end its schedule then and begin a 2020-21 season afterward.
So far, events on the schedule are canceled or postponed through the PGA Championship in May, with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial and the Rocket Mortgage Championship in late May expected to be canceled or postponed.
The PGA Tour, which loses millions from lost television and sponsorship revenue each week, has told players that it will do all it can to add spots to fields and even add opposite events where possible when the schedule resumes. For example, the Memorial, scheduled for June 4-7, would increase its field from 120 to 144 players if it goes on as scheduled.
Because the Olympic golf tournament was canceled, and without the U.S. Open and The Open in July, it would give the PGA Tour flexibility to add events during those times.
Whenever the authorities allow sports to resume, the tour will be keen to add as many events as possible through the fall, and will have to work out the logistics of having the possibility of just one major championship in this season and potentially more than four in the next one.
“Clearly there is a high degree of collaborating,” Annis said. “Whenever golf can be played in a way that is safe for players, for fans and for all involved … everyone is eager to get back out there. But at the same time, we’re taking guidance from all the various agencies and government officials and frankly they are telling us in the near future nothing is going to happen. And for good reason. A lot of the discussion centers around what it will look like with a unified view.”