For a second straight year the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown men’s Australian Open plans into disarray, with the planned November 25-28 date at Sydney’s The Australian Golf Club appearing more and more unlikely by the day.
Word on whether those dates are still a chance, contingency plans and a decision date has been limited from Golf Australia (organising body) who will make the final call on the tournament in concert with the PGA Tour of Australasia and other stakeholders.
However, Golf Australia magazine obtained an email sent by The Australian to its members with the following, which suggests a decision as to whether the most frequent host venue will be a part of Australian Open plans this year will be made by the end of next week.
“The Club does require a definite answer to how, and at what level, the Australian Open will be hosted, by 27 August. All the above organizations, including Destination New South Wales, are in constant dialogue and will be responsible for an announcement by that date,” the email read in part.
Understandably the club requires significant lead time to prepare for hosting the national open, however the uncertainty surrounding interstate travel, restrictions in COVID ravaged Sydney and the likelihood that few, if any, of our overseas stars will return has seen Golf Australia hold off from making public any official word on the event.
“The Club does require a definite answer to how, and at what level, the Australian Open will be hosted, by 27 August." - Email from The Australian Golf Club.
"The next few weeks are going to be critical to our decision-making on this,” a Golf Australia spokesperson told this publication.
"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."
Originally postponed, then cancelled, in 2020, the Australian Open was last played in 2019, when Matt Jones claimed his second Stonehaven Cup at his home club, The Australian.
Jones, like many of his compatriots playing on the PGA and European Tours, is based overseas and given the recent developements from the federal government regarding returning Australians and their ability to leave again, plus quarantine still in place would be an extremely remote chance of returning to Australian shores this summer.
Jones’ fellow Australian Open winner Adam Scott gave a fairly clear indication that he won’t be heading home anytime soon just last week in the lead-up to the Wyndham Championship where he lost in a playoff.
"It's underway now and we'll be making a call in the near future." - Golf Australia spokesperson.
“I find it frustrating that Australia is maybe lagging behind at the moment and have very strict measures over the virus. Basically, means I'm not going home anytime soon and I'm more concerned now about getting to see my parents and them getting to see grandkids that they haven't seen for a long time and some they've never met,” Scott said.
Similarly, reading between the lines of Marc Leishman jumping through hoops and red tape to fly his parents to his home in Virginia suggests the Victorian won’t be returning to Australia for an Australian Open or Australian PGA if they are indeed held in 2021.
The Australian PGA Championship is set to follow the Open and finally be held at Royal Queensland, and similarly is yet to have any official announcement made regarding whether it will be played this year. However, there is likely to be a stronger push to play an event for local players from the Tour organiser with so many professionals cooling their heels around the country desperate for somewhere to play.
Enquiries have been made with PGA Tour of Australasia regarding their event, with more to come as word comes to hand.
But for now, the Australian Open in November is on tenterhooks and there us surely plenty of discussions happening between Golf Australia CEO James Sutherland and his team with stakeholders like The Australian Golf Club before next Friday.