Given everything else that is happening in the world, the PGA Tour’s announcement late Tuesday that it is cancelling every event on its schedule through mid-May isn’t a shock nor was the announcement the PGA Championship, scheduled for May 14-17, has been postponed.
Still, the impact is enormous. Nearly a quarter of the tour season will have been lost if and when play resumes in late May.
It also leads to the inevitable question – will there be more cancellations this year?
The RBC Heritage, the Zurich Classic, the Wells Fargo Championship, the AT&T Byron Nelson and the PGA Championship won’t be played this year, leaving the next potential starting point for professional golf in the U.S. to be the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in late May.
What was setting up to be an exceptional tour season now has an uncertain future. A two-month pause could be extended.
The difficulty of the moment was evident on the face of PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan when he made the initial announcement of tournament cancellations at the Players Championship last Friday. This decision could not have been much easier but, like the one last week, it wasn’t hard to see things heading in this direction.
This is past the point of right and wrong. It’s the only thing to do.
The cancellations come with a myriad of consequences. Beyond the impact on players, caddies and sponsors, it hits hard the communities where tournaments are played, especially the organizations that benefit directly through charitable contributions from the events.
On Hilton Head Island, S.C., where the RBC Heritage is played, a sizable portion of the resort’s annual business comes from tournament week. Businesses count on the tournament and not having it ripples through the local economy.
While acknowledging the seriousness of the situation, this could be the first year since 1943 that no major championships are played.
That’s not likely, but it is possible.
The Masters and the PGA Championship have already been postponed. That leaves open the possibility of them being played later this year but that’s decidedly uncertain.
Then there is the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Nearby New Rochelle has been locked down, Broadway has gone dark and New York City has gone inside like most of the rest of the world. Local U.S. Open qualifying was cancelled on Tuesday for both the men and the women.
As for the Open Championship on the southeastern edge of England? Getting there now is difficult and getting back to the States is virtually impossible with travel bans in place.
Maybe a month from now there will be more clarity, but maybe not.
This isn’t the new normal because there is nothing normal about what’s happening right now. It’s new, for sure, and every day brings a fresh wave of warnings, piling another layer of angst on all of us who can’t help but be at least a little unsettled by what’s happening.
The LPGA has already cancelled its first major of the season and it’s fair to assume more cancellations are coming across the board. The U.S. Women’s Open is scheduled for the first week in June.
So much of the Masters is about when it’s played, how it looks and how it feels. And two Masters within seven months? It’s better than no Masters for two years.
The major amateur schedule has evaporated, at least through the early part of the year, the college golf season disappeared, and chances are member-guest tournaments scheduled this spring are now being moved to later in the year.
If there is a bright spot, it’s that golf courses themselves are remaining open even if grill rooms and other services have been limited. That is subject to change if more places implement the “shelter in place” mandate now being enforced in San Francisco.
A year without major championships is not unprecedented. It happened in 1943, during World War II, and could have happened in the two years after that when only the PGA Championship was played.
It could happen this year, though Seth Waugh, the CEO of the PGA of America, said the organization is making plans to play the championship in San Francisco sometime this summer.
There have also been suggestions the Masters might be rescheduled for October. There has been no official comment about that nor will there be until something is decided.
A Masters in the fall?
It’s hard to imagine. So much of the Masters is about when it’s played, how it looks and how it feels. And two Masters within seven months? It’s better than no Masters for two years.
For weeks, the golf calendar has pointed toward April and the Masters. It has become a part of the natural rhythm of the game, as symbolic as it is relevant, unofficially ushering in a new season that may have begun in warmer spots but stretches across the world when the azaleas bloom.
The flowers will still bloom, and the Masters might still be played this calendar year but, for the time being, it’s a game with no promises.
The Wanamaker Trophy shown at TPC Harding Park. Photo: Gary Kellner, PGA of America via Getty Images
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