Golf’s governing organizations dramatically remade the 2020 schedule Monday when the British Open was canceled and the other three majors were delayed. But the 3M Open in Blaine kept its late July slot.
An annual harbinger of spring, the Masters now will be played in November, two weeks before Thanksgiving. The PGA Championship moves from May back to its traditional month of August. The U.S. Open, normally held in mid-June, will be played in mid-September, a week before the Ryder Cup.
The LPGA last week announced a revised schedule that will move its first two majors to September and December, when the U.S. Women’s Open will be played in Houston two weeks before Christmas.
All the reconfiguring done by the PGA Tour, the USGA, the PGA of America, Augusta National Golf Club, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, the European tour and LPGA Tour is contingent upon the coronavirus pandemic abating. All PGA Tour events that had been set through early May are canceled.
“I just say what I tell my caddie all the time. It’s all good in theory, but you still have to be able to execute,” said PGA Tour player Troy Merritt, the former Spring Lake Park High School and Winona State golfer. “It’s a pretty jam-packed schedule, but you knew it was going to be. We’ll just have to see if it actually pans out that way.’’
Merritt, who is hunkered at home in Boise, Idaho, with his wife, Courtney, and two young boys, said, “We could be out ’til January, you never know. People have to take this thing seriously, and take care of themselves and their fellow Americans, and just get through this thing.”
Merritt played in the inaugural 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine over July 4th weekend last summer. This year’s event is scheduled for July 23-26. Originally it was one week after the British Open and leading to golf at the Tokyo Olympics. Both have canceled.
The 2021 British Open still will be played at Royal St. George’s in England, this summer’s original site. The 150th Open scheduled for 2021 at St. Andrews — “The Home of Golf” — is now set for 2022.
The last time a British Open wasn’t played was 1945, at the end of the World War II.
“We have explored every option for playing The Open this year,” R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said in a statement, “but it is not going to be possible.”
There are open weeks before and after this year’s 3M Open, although a tournament currently scheduled for May or June could move back to the week after the Blaine tournament.
“We hate the British had to cancel, but not having the British in front of us actually helps us with [recruiting] players,” 3M Open executive director Hollis Cavner said. “Guys won’t have to come back from Europe now and European players are going to want to play as much as they can. … But no matter what, we’re going to be safe. We’re going to make sure it’s safe.”
The 2020 season’s first major — the PGA Championship at Harding Park in San Francisco — has moved from May to Aug. 6-9. That leaves the 3M Open two weeks before the PGA. It’s favorable timing because many of the best players prefer to tune up for a major two weeks out and practice the week before.
“I like our date, I really do,” said Cavner, who has had cancellations of three other PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions events that his company manages. “The players, they’re ready. They want to play.”
Cavner suggested golf will have an advantage returning to play because it’s played over 200 or more acres and not in a 20,000-seat arena or 60,000-seat stadium. If the 3M Open is played as scheduled, Cavner said he and the PGA Tour intend it will be with spectators attending.
“If this is under control and safe, we think crowds will come out en masse,” Cavner said.
He called this season’s cancellations, postponements and rescheduling a “one-time anomaly” because of the pandemic. The FedExCup playoffs move back a week now, and the Tour Championship, U.S. Open and Ryder Cup all are scheduled for September.
The U.S. Open at New York’s Winged Foot Golf Club — mere miles from a virus outbreak — and the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin will be played in back-to-back weeks.
“People will love September,” Cavner said. “It’s going to add a lot of excitement to the fall.”
This Thursday would have been the Masters’ first round at Augusta National. The club now will make golf’s traditional first major its last, moving it to Nov. 9-15. It also canceled the second Augusta National’s Women’s Amateur because of scheduling challenges.
Cavner promised one thing about the remade schedule, provided the pandemic abates.
“The Masters is going to be perfect, you can book that,” Cavner said. “That’s the one event you can bet will be as good as possible, no matter when they play it. They do it right and they are the best.”