A fortnight ago the cream of the crop were playing the first round of the Players Championship, the Cheltenham Festival still had a day to go, and football in the UK was still preparing itself for a weekend of fixtures. Now we’ve no idea when any sport will return and three-time Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher fears that the majors could be set for an almost blank year.
“If you think about the arithmetic of this, it is difficult to see how they can get the infrastructure built in time for the Open Championship,” he explained. “I think the Open faces real difficulty and there will be a decision made sooner rather than later – maybe it would be for the best, like during the war – and this is a war against the virus – to have it as not played.”
The Open at Sandwich is due to take place from July 16 which at one point seemed a long way off, now we’re all working in calculations of three months ahead. This year should have been the 149th staging of the Championship, which would leave St Andrews to host the 150th in 2021, but the Scot thinks that might not be enough of a factor to push things back.
“It’s in the diary to play it at St Andrews and I think it’s likely that it will be played there next year.”
As for the Ryder Cup, due for September 25, Gallacher can see this follow a similar path.
“I read that they have to get the Ryder Cup played this year and the captain could pick the best 12, as he sees it, but I’m not sure if that is the right thing to do and that’s not really what the Ryder Cup is about this time – there are more important things than the Ryder Cup right now.
“September is a long way away but with the lead-up time of this virus it might be best to not play it this year and even go straight to Italy in 2022. The PGA of America have got deep pockets but my concern is that the European Tour have a commitment to put it on with their Sky contract so they will be pulling out all the stops to somehow put it on.”
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He added: “In 2002 when we put the Ryder Cup back a year it was the obvious thing to do – 9/11 happened a few weeks before so it had to be cancelled and the PGA of America knew how important it was to the European Tour and agreed to push it back.
“Now we can’t see an end to this, many more people will start their 12-week quarantining from a later date so making decisions is so tricky with no end in sight.”
Should the Ryder Cup not be played this year then there is a sense that this might open up more time to shoehorn in the other majors but Gallacher believes that only one of them might be fit for that purpose.
“There is talk of trying to play the Masters in October – that has a smaller field and not a very big infrastructure and they could play the Masters behind closed doors as a spectacle for TV,” he explains. “You could see that happening but it would be difficult to see them play a US Open and then the PGA and then the FedEx which is so important for the PGA Tour.
“I think there’s a possibility this year that the only major to be played will be the Masters because of the special circumstances around that event.”
Bernard Gallacher is an ambassador for Golf Care, a specialist insurance provider that covers golfers against common incidents such as injury, equipment theft and property damage.
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