Canadian Open cancelled as PGA changes schedule

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The RBC Canadian Open, one of the jewels of the national sports calendar, was cancelled Thursday as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PGA Tour announced the cancellation of the tournament as part of its revamped 2020 schedule. The four-day competition was scheduled to begin June 11 at St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto.

The Tour has hopes of restarting the season at Colonial the same weekend as the Canadian Open would have been held, but would keep fans away for at least the first month.

The Canadian Open, first contested in 1904, is the third-oldest continuously running tournament on the PGA Tour behind the British Open and the U.S. Open.

It’s the first time the tournament has been cancelled since 1944, when it missed a second straight year due to the Second World War. It was also scrapped from 1915-18 because of the First World War.

The Canadian Open becomes the latest major annual late spring or summer sporting event in Canada to be wiped out or postponed because of COVID-19. The Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal and the Queen’s Plate in Toronto will not run on their scheduled June dates, while the Rogers Cup women’s tennis tournament in Montreal, scheduled for August, will not be held in 2020.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy won the title last year at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club. The last Canadian to win the tournament was Pat Fletcher in 1954.

A cancellation seemed increasingly likely in recent weeks as the pandemic worsened. Three regional qualification tournaments set for mid-May were scrapped last month.

Toronto Mayor John Tory recently announced the city was cancelling its permits for all public gatherings up until June 30.

The edict didn’t apply to sporting events held on private property — like MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, the NBA’s Raptors and NHL’s Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena, or the Canadian Open itself at St. George’s in the city’s west end.

Lone Canadian event on Tour

“Obviously it’s not an easy decision and there’s very valid reasons for things getting cancelled or postponed,” golfer Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., said before the cancellation was official. “It’s an event that I’ve been looking forward to all year, really.

“It’s so much fun to play in front of the Canadian fans, the support’s incredible at the RBC Canadian Open.”

The tournament is scheduled to return to St. George’s in 2024. The venue has hosted the event on five occasions, most recently in 2010.

The city edict cancelled a two-night concert series planned for tournament week. The Chainsmokers and Keith Urban were scheduled to perform at a nearby school.

If the tournament had gone ahead as scheduled, construction on the course would have had to begin later this month, another hurdle for making the Canadian Open’s original start date.

The CP Women’s Open is still on the LPGA Tour schedule. It’s slated for Sept. 3-6 at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver.

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko won last year’s tournament at Magna Golf Club in Aurora, Ont.

Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., won in 2018 at Regina’s Wascana Country Club. She become the first Canadian to win the tournament since Jocelyne Bourassa in 1973.

Tour has ambitious plans

If government and health authorities give golf the green light, the Tour will have an official event every week from June 11 through Dec. 6 except for the week of Thanksgiving.

The Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, was pushed back a month to June and would be followed by the RBC Heritage, which was postponed this week.

The PGA Tour season would conclude with the Tour Championship on Labour Day, and a new season would start the following week (Sept. 10-13) in Napa, California. That would mean only one major — the PGA Championship — is held in this 2019-20 season, and as many as seven majors would apply to the following season.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said while the priority is health and safety for everyone involved, “our hope is to play a role — responsibly — in the world’s return to enjoying the things we love.”

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