Were the R&A right to cancel The Open?
The R&A Statement
In the light of the decision made by the R&A, and now with just over three weeks of time to think about this. I thought I would write about this dramatic action, it’s consequences and my own thoughts.
I want to say from the outset that I do not envy the position of any of golfs decision-makers. Nor do I have any time for the current culture in today’s mass media of the kind of antagonistic and divisive angles that we see so much of in their output today.
However, the cancellation of The Open Championship 2020 still bothers me nearly a month on. I hope that in years to come the decision to cancel will prove to be the right one, but I fear the opposite will be the case. Saying something now gets it off my chest!
Safety of People is Paramount
This statement cannot be argued with. We value human life and we would not want to undo all the good work that has brought so many difficulties to so many peoples lives. The virus has brought loss to my own family with the loss of my dad a few days back. But is this an absolute argument by itself or is there a wider conversation to be had?
When I visited the Old Course Museum in 2007. I had played the course in the morning and then marvelled at all that is within that amazing place. The one discovery I was most struck by was the claret jug itself. Protected behind glass like the crown jewels, I got my face to within a few inches of the jug and I noticed that the first few winners names - Willie Park and Old Tom Morris – were engraved on the outside of the spout, at the very top of the jug. First played in 1860 The Open Championship has such a long history!
Where there is a will to get something done – particularly something really important - then history shows that a way can always be found. The cancellation of the 2020 Open seems to lack elements of that problem-solving spirit.
There is precedent for the cancellation of the open. During the last two world wars The Open was not played between 1915 – 1919 and then again between 1940 – 1945. The question is whether or not this Coronavirus pandemic – albeit for just one year - relates to the scale of a world war? Surely not.
Plans for Golf’s other Majors and Ryder Cup
As it stands we still have golf to look forward to some professional golf resuming soon, albeit behind closed doors. Currently, the revised dates for golf’s big events are…
· August 3rd to 9th USPGA Championship – TPC Harding Park, California
· September 17th to 20th US Open – Winged Foot, New York
· September 25th to 27th Ryder Cup – Whistling Straits, Wisconsin
· November 12th to 15th US Masters – Augusta National, Georgia
Arguments Supporting Cancellation
Many of the arguments in favour of the R&A decision are written in an article in Goth Monthly Magazine. This article raises some great points but reads like a polar opposite of a can-do attitude that the oldest golf championship might deserve. It also reads like the R&A are beyond questioning.
The points seem mainly to revolve around financial commitments to Royal St. Georges, the local community (who’s economy will get a huge boost) and sponsors etc. There is also an issue with the great tradition of the qualifying tournament route to reaching the tournament itself.
It comes down to the question of what is The Open Championship about and what does it stand for? Good reasons why it should not go ahead - Financial implications, logistical problems, reduced entries by qualification and less daylight in the latter part of the year are all factors. Or, is The Open bigger and better than that?
I would say yes and suggest that in fairness to sponsors, Royal St. Georges and other affected parties that the delay of this year’s arrangements could be fulfilled next year. 2021 will be a great event.
But why not arrange a scaled back Open. Not one where the quality of the field is less but one played at St. Andrews, one that may be played behind closed gates, played in less favourable weather but one that gets played.
I would prefer to have a scaled-back Open. One that might lack a little sun or the roar of a massive crowd but it would be a return to remembering what is most important – the history of the oldest and best golf championship in the world. Scaled back yes, but not to the state that leaves a missing year on the third band of that famous old claret jug.
Some professional golfers reach their peak for just a few years – or part of a season – or sometimes just for one week! It seems a shame to miss out on the possibility of another unforgettable chapter of Open history, one where another heroic performance gets shown to the world of golf. The lost year will never come back. Whether it is Tiger Woods chasing down the 18 majors total of Jack Nicklaus or someone like Tommy Fleetwood at his peak outplaying the field.
I hope we get to the end of the year and are at peace with the cancellation of The Open. I am just not confident about that decision being all done and dusted at the beginning of April! One thing is for certain – time will tell!
Pat Flynn is based at -
AB Golf Performance Centre
Tel. 07779 532375