March 13 (Reuters) - The 2020 major championship golf schedule has been thrown into a state of flux with the news on Friday that April’s Masters has been postponed due to coronavirus fears, leaving the other majors with hard choices to make in the coming weeks.
The May 14-17 PGA Championship at Harding Park in San Francisco would seem to be in doubt, although the PGA of America on Friday only referred to its statement earlier this week which denied a report it was considering moving the event.
“We continue to carefully monitor this rapidly evolving situation, in close coordination and communication with representatives from San Francisco,” it said on Tuesday.
“We will follow the guidance of state and city officials and public health authorities, keeping the safety and well-being of all involved as our highest priority.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Golf Association (USGA) said plans were proceeding for the June 18-21 U.S. Open at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, New York, close to a U.S. epicentre of the coronavirus in New Rochelle.
“Our championship season begins in late April and runs through September... and as of today, we have not made any decisions to alter this schedule,” the USGA said in a statement on Friday.
“We will take action in the event there are direct impacts to our people or our championships, including our qualifiers.”
Complicating matters for the USGA, U.S. Open qualifiers are scheduled in May not only across the U.S. but also in England, Japan and Canada.
Further ahead, time is still on the side of the British Open, scheduled to close out the major season at Royal St George’s in Sandwich on the south coast of England from July 16-19.
There seems little need for the R&A to rush into a decision before seeing how the coronavirus pandemic plays itself out.
The Tokyo Olympics are still, at this stage, on the slate, with the men’s event scheduled from July 30-Aug. 2 and the women’s the following week.
Then there is the Sept. 25-27 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, golf’s premier biennial team event between the U.S. and Europe.
Perhaps the biggest question is whether the Masters will be played on a new date, or perhaps cancelled altogether.
Augusta National traditionally closes in summer, and playing the tournament in oppressive heat and humidity on grasses better suited to temperate weather would not be ideal.
However, given its status as the most popular major with players and fans alike, the Masters can do whatever it wants.
Co-operation between golf’s various ruling bodies is generally good, but the status of the Masters gives Augusta National extraordinary power should it choose to wield it.
On the women’s side, the next three LPGA Tour events in the U.S. have been postponed, including the first major, the ANA Inspiration, which was scheduled for April 2-5 in Rancho Mirage, California.
The LPGA has already cancelled events previously scheduled in China, Thailand and Singapore.
The Asian tournaments will not be rescheduled, but the LPGA Tour hopes to play the postponed American events.
It has a built-in advantage in that there are several open weeks on the calendar where these events could be slotted in without affecting other tournaments. (Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editingby Ken Ferris)