Why It Was The Right Decision To Cancel The 2020 Open

We react to the news that this year's 149th Open at Royal St George's will not be going ahead

What Will Happen To The Open Championship
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We react to the news that this year's 149th Open at Royal St George's will not be going ahead

Why It Was The Right Decision To Cancel The 2020 Open

Earlier this week, The R&A announced that this year's 149th Open at Royal St George's has been cancelled.

The event will no longer go ahead and will instead return to the Kent links next July, pushing back St Andrews' 150th Open to 2022.

It was clearly a very difficult decision that took a long time to make, but we believe it was the correct one.

Why it was so complicated...

The reason the decision was so complicated for this event is because The Open doesn’t remain in the same place each year.

It has huge financial implications on Royal St George’s, the south east and golf generally.

St George’s is the only course on The Open rota in the south of England.

It’s the only time the grand old championship is held within striking distance of London and the most populated area of the country.

The event was all-ticket this year and very nearly sold out.

The hospitality had been sold and contractors were primed to begin preparations.

Last year, The Open at Portrush generated more than £100 million for the Northern Irish economy, the figure was £64 million for Kent when The Open last visited St George’s in 2011.

The south east now has to wait a full year for this revenue, a decision that would not have been taken lightly.

The Open also generates huge amounts for golf generally.

All of the money the R&A takes in from the championship, through tickets, TV deals, merchandise, hospitality etc… is reinvested in golf.

It goes into grass-roots development, growing the game overseas, training greenkeepers, researching sustainability, the rules, equipment research, amateur tournaments and much more.

Basically, the monies raised by The Open are hugely important to the health of the sport overall.

What Will Happen To The Open Championship

The Open raises money for grass-roots golf

Additionally, the cancellation of St George's pushes back the championship at St Andrews to 2022.

This means that next year's 150th Open will actually now be the 149th – and St Andrews will have to wait a year.

It also means that we could see two St Andrews Opens in four years if it goes back there in 2025, as the R&A like to hold it at their home every five years.

Cancelling The Open was not a desirable option.

Why they simply had to cancel it...

We initially thought that the championship could be postponed until later in the year, but it hasn't turned out that way.

It would have been very difficult from both a scheduling and an organisational point of view.

Would The Open take precedence over already scheduled tournaments later this season?

And would it rank higher than other events that might be hoping to reschedule towards the end of the year?

Also, there would have been the uncertainty of the whole situation – we have no idea when golf will start again so it’s unfeasible to reschedule right now…

Will tournaments have restarted by August? September?

Despite the rescheduling of the other three Majors, it’s still impossible to say when golf will restart due to the truly devastating global Covid-19 pandemic.

There were some big questions The R&A had to ask itself...

The infrastructure required to run The Open is huge and preparations have to begin months in advance, so when would they start?

How would they start if restrictions are still in place?

What about the very essence of The Open… The fact it’s open?

If the event was going to be pushed back to, say, September, how would all the international, regional and final qualifying take place?

It would be hugely challenging logistically and, quite probably, it wouldn’t be able to happen in its entirety.

But to play the championship without allowing a full qualification process would detract from the spirit of the tournament.

Without all the qualifiers, we wouldn’t have the potential for unlikely winners, a Ben Curtis or a Todd Hamilton for instance... We wouldn’t have a full field.

Hosting The Open after the summer wouldn’t be the same either… There’d be little chance of a fiery links, or seeing fans basking in the sun.

Not that The Open always delivers those baked conditions, but they’re what many of us imagine and remember when thinking of the championship.

That's why we believe it was the correct decision for the R&A to cancel, meaning next year's event back in Kent will be a wonderful week and true celebration of the game of golf.

This way, the south east wouldn’t miss out on the tourist revenue, although it would of course be delayed a year.

The golf fans of the south east would still get their turn to see the world’s best in action and, at least some of the hospitality and tickets sold could be rolled over.

St Andrews and the 150th Open shifts back to 2022, then Royal Liverpool in 2023 and Royal Troon in 2024.

That will be a blow for Troon as the idea was they would host in 2023, to mark the 100th anniversary of the first championship there in 1923.

But that’s an unavoidable compromise that probably seems the easier pill to swallow right now.

The R&A had a hugely difficult decision to make and it’s not at all surprising that it took “some time to resolve,” as Martin Slumbers said.

As the Coronavirus crisis continued and still does continue, it became increasingly clear The Open simply couldn’t be held at Royal St George’s this July.

But next July the R&A will showcase the Kent links in all its summer glory, in front of thrilled southern fans who will get their Open fix.

For many of us, this lockdown is a waiting game, The St George’s Open is one we simply have to wait on.

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Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?