Sport Golf Pandemic threat to golf’s Australian Open

Pandemic threat to golf’s Australian Open

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The Australian Open hasn't been cancelled for two years running since WWII. Photo: Getty
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D-Day is fast approaching for golf officials amid fears COVID-19 will wipe out the Australian Open for the second year running.

The global pandemic forced the abandonment of the summer’s three flagship events last year – the Australian Open men’s and women’s tournaments and the Australian PGA Championship, leaving touring professionals across the country battling to make ends meet.

Many relied on JobKeeper to get through the crisis but, a year on, and already the Northern Territory PGA Championship, which was to have launched the summer program, has been postponed.

Originally scheduled for August 19-22, the tournament has been pushed back to September 16-19 because of Australia’s border closures and the inability of players from NSW, Victoria and south-east Queensland to travel to the Territory.

The Australian Open is slated for The Australian Golf Club in Sydney from November 25-28, exactly three months away.

But with greater Sydney locked down until at least the end of September and coronavirus infection numbers hitting a daily record on Wednesday of 919 plus at least two more deaths, the prospect of the event being staged in NSW looks grim.

“The next few weeks are going to be critical to our decision-making on this,” a Golf Australian spokesman said.

“There’s a lot for us to work through and obviously a lot of uncertainty.

“We’ve always been keen to get the tournament back on this summer one way or another and we have the date in place, but there will need to be ongoing discussions with the key partners and stakeholders before we can decide.

“It’s underway now and we’ll be making a call in the near future.”

The Australian Open hasn’t been cancelled for consecutive years since World War II.

Even if it does go ahead, potentially in another state and at a later date, there’s next to no chance of any of the usual US PGA Tour stars such as Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman, Adam Scott, Jason Day or reigning champion Matt Jones returning to Australia to vie for the Stonehaven Cup.

But it’s not just the men’s Open and PGA Championship – scheduled for Royal Queensland in Brisbane from December 2-5 – in doubt.

The women’s Australian Open is a co-sanctioned event with the LPGA Tour and the likelihood of the world’s biggest stars quarantining for a fortnight to contest a four-day event would seem slim.