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Monday Apr 06 2020
By
AFP

Coronavirus fears lead to cancellation of British Open for first time since World War II

By
AFP
Ireland's Shane Lowry hits his tee shot on the 11th hole during the third round of the 148th British Open Championship at the Royal Portrush Golf Club in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, July 20, 2019. Aflo Sport/Koji Aoki/Files

Fears of the coronavirus pandemic have led the British Open's organisers to cancel the 149th Open — scheduled to take place at Royal St George's Golf Club in Kent in July — for the first time since World War II.

But with the pandemic ripping the 2020 sporting schedule to shreds, the event has became the first of the sport's four majors to be cancelled this year.

Golf's oldest major will now be hosted at the same Sandwich venue in July 2021.

"The Open was due to be played in Kent from 12-19 July but it has been necessary to cancel the championship based on guidance from the UK Government, the health authorities, public services and the R&A's advisers," organisers R&A said in a statement on Monday.

St Andrews will still host the 150th British Open but a year later than scheduled in 2022.

"Our absolute priority is to protect the health and safety of the fans, players, officials, volunteers and staff involved in the Open. We care deeply about this historic championship and have made this decision with a heavy heart," R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said.

"We have explored every option for playing The Open this year but it is not going to be possible.

"We rely on the support of the emergency services, local authorities and a range of other organisations to stage the Championship and it would be unreasonable to place any additional demands on them when they have far more urgent priorities to deal with.

"We appreciate that this will be disappointing for a great many people around the world but we have to act responsibly during this pandemic and it is the right thing to do."

The British Open is the latest high-profile tournament to be axed because of the virus.

Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II last week, while Euro 2020 and the Olympics have been pushed back a year until 2021.

Ireland's Shane Lowry won last year's British Open at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.

"Obviously I'm disappointed that I won't get to defend the Open Championship this year but I feel the R&A have made the right decisions based on people's health and safety," Lowry tweeted.

"See you all in Royal St George's in 2021."

Royal St George's has hosted the British Open 14 times, most recently in 2011, when Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke won the event.

Both this year's Masters and the PGA Championship were postponed in March because of the health crisis.

It is believed organisers still hope to play those events later in the year.

The US Open is currently set to be played from June 18-21 at Winged Foot in New York.

However, the United States Golf Association (USGA) is expected to announce a decision on staging the tournament soon.