Coronavirus: British Open golf tournament canceled until 2021

Coronavirus: British Open golf tournament canceled until 2021
Shane Lowry, who kissed the Claret Jug in 2019, will have to wait another year to defend his British Open championship. (Peter Morrison/Associated Press)

For the first time since 1945, the British Open tournament will not be played, as the coronavirus pandemic caused the cancellation of one of professional golf’s four majors.

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club confirmed the decision Monday. The 149th version of the Open Championship had been scheduled for July 16-19 at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England. The R&A said the 2021 tournament would be held at St. George’s, ESPN reported.

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The announcement comes less than a week after Wimbledon, the oldest professional tennis tournament, was canceled until 2021 because of COVID-19 concerns. That tournament also was last canceled because of World War II.

The Claret Jug had been awarded continuously for the past 74 years. The 1945 Open was canceled because of World War II. The Open, the oldest golf tournament, hosted its first event in 1860.

The Old Course at St. Andrews, which was to host the 2021 event, will be the tournament venue in 2022, Golf Digest reported.

Two of golf’s other major tournaments -- the Masters and PGA Championship -- have been postponed, while the U.S. Open is also expected to be delayed.

“I can assure everyone that we explored every option for playing The Open this year but it is not going to be possible,” R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said in a statement. “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. We appreciate that this will be disappointing for a great many people around the world, but this pandemic is severely affecting the U.K. and we have to act responsibly. It is the right thing to do.”

Slumbers said all tickets and other hospitality packages will be shifted to 2021, or fully refunded

Shane Lowry won the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush Golf Club in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.