Imagine you’re Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka or Justin Thomas and you’ve just won the 2020 U.S. Open. You won’t be celebrating into the early morning hours and then taking a week or two off to bask in the glory with friends and family, huddle with your agent and do the obligatory media tour.
Instead, minutes after you hoist the trophy, you’ll leave Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., and fly directly to Wisconsin, where you’ll have a few hours to recharge physically and emotionally and get ready for the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.
That’s the incredible scenario that could play out in September, when the U.S. Open and Ryder Cup will be played in back-to-back weeks as part of the revamped schedule announced jointly Monday by the world’s major golf organizations.
The U.S. Open, originally scheduled for June 18-21, has been moved to Sept. 17-20. The Ryder Cup keeps its Sept. 25-27 dates, with practice rounds starting earlier in the week.
A spokesman for Blue Mound Golf & Country Club confirmed that the private club in Wauwatosa would still play host to the 12th Junior Ryder Cup during Ryder Cup week. The competition dates are Sept. 21-22. The Junior Ryder Cup is modeled after the Ryder Cup, with the same match play format and the respective U.S. and European teams comprised of six boys and six girls.
The new schedule also calls for the PGA Championship to be held Aug. 6-9 at Harding Park in San Francisco and the Masters Tournament – for which practice rounds would have started Monday – to be held Nov. 12-15 at Augusta National.
The British Open has been canceled for 2020 and will not be played again until 2021. Since 1872, the oldest championship in golf had been canceled only during World Wars I and II.
The biennial Ryder Cup, golf’s most lucrative event, with a projected $135 million economic impact this year, normally is played in a super-charged atmosphere. Players spend two years trying to qualify for the respective teams and then try to peak for the matches, played in front of rowdy, partisan galleries.
Will the 24 players – 12 from Europe and 12 from the U.S. – be able to channel their energy into the competition just days after competing in perhaps the most taxing of the major championships? Will U.S. captain Steve Stricker and his European counterpart, Padraig Harrington, be able to get maximum effort and focus from their players?
Another consideration is how players will qualify for the respective teams. Stricker told Wisconsin.Golf last week that the established qualification system for the U.S., in which players earn points for finishes in PGA Tour events, with the majors heavily weighted, would need to be revamped.
“If we’re going to play in the summer, we may adjust the point system a little bit,” Stricker said. “We’re looking into some options to maybe kind of identify the player that’s playing the best leading up to the Ryder Cup, if we are able to get out there and play.”
The PGA Tour worked with its host organizations and title sponsors to move the regular season finale – the Wyndham Championship – and the three FedEx Cup Playoffs events one week later, starting the week of Aug. 10 and concluding with a Labor Day (Sept. 7) finish for the Tour Championship.
Originally, Stricker was to name his two captain’s at-large picks on Tuesday, Sept. 1. That date likely will be moved one week later, to Sept. 8.
The Tour also will seek to reschedule tournaments into the weeks formerly occupied by the U.S. Open, the Open Championship and the men’s Olympic golf competition in June and July.
All this assumes the coronavirus pandemic will have been contained by June, or mid-summer at the latest. A secondary outbreak likely would force more postponements and cancellations.
It’s not known how often the 53-year-old Stricker will tee it up. Since turning 50, he has split his time between the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions. It’s likely he’ll play in as many PGA Tour events as possible, both to stay connected to prospective U.S. Ryder Cup team members and because the condensed schedule will make it difficult to play both tours.
Stricker will not get to defend his U.S. Senior Open title, because the United States Golf Association on Monday announced it was canceling the 2020 championship. He won the title by six strokes last year at Warren Golf Course in South Bend, Ind.
And it’s a near certainty that the tournament Stricker hosts, the American Family Insurance Championship on the Champions tour, will be moved off its originally scheduled dates of June 5-7. “That’s not going to happen,” Stricker said last week.
The leading golf organizations – the PGA, LPGA and European tours, the USGA, the PGA of America, the R&A and the Augusta National Golf Club – worked jointly to fashion the reconfigured schedule. They released a unified statement Monday that read, in part:
“In recent weeks, the global golf community has come together to collectively put forward a calendar of events that will, we hope, serve to entertain and inspire golf fans around the world. We are grateful to our respective partners, sponsors and players, who have allowed us to make decisions – some of them, very tough decisions – in order to move the game and the industry forward
“We want to reiterate that Augusta National Golf Club, European Tour, LPGA, PGA of America, PGA Tour, the R&A and USGA collectively value the health and well-being of everyone, within the game of golf and beyond, above all else. We encourage everyone to follow all responsible precautions and make effort to remain healthy and safe.”