The 149th Open Championship has been called off for 2020 due to the global spread of COVID-19, with the tournament next to be played in July 2021 at Royal St. George's.
Shane Lowry will not have the opportunity to defend his Open Championship in 2020, after the R&A chief executive Martin Slumber confirmed that the major has been cancelled.
The Open was due to take place in Kent over the week of July 12-19th but, following guidance from the British government, the health authorities, public services and The R&A’s advisers, the iconic tournament has been called off.
This represents the first major to be officially cancelled in 2020, with plans for the Masters and the PGA Championship to be rescheduled at a later date this year. Meanwhile, there are strong hopes that the US Open, set for mid-September, will still be contested in 2020.
Offaly man Lowry so memorably claimed victory at Royal Portrush in 2019, winning by six clear strokes over his nearest challenger Tommy Fleetwood, avenging his heartbreaking 2016 defeat at Oakmont in the US Open as part of the process.
The country's celebration of Lowry's momentous achievement will go down in history as one of Ireland's greatest-ever sporting weeks.
However, for the first time since World World II, there is to be no Open Championship played this year.
A statement has been posted on the official Twitter account of The Open, with the chief executive of the R&A Martin Slumbers saying:
“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 we have to act responsibly during this pandemic and it is the right thing to do.
“I can assure everyone that we have explored every option for playing The Open this year but it is not going to be possible.
“There are many different considerations that go into organising a major sporting event of this scale.
It is with a heavy heart that we have to cancel The Open for the first time since WWII. We appreciate that this will be disappointing for a great many people but we have to act responsibly during this pandemic and it is the right thing to do.
Statement: https://t.co/brJfuOZSFP pic.twitter.com/iizOupOk4m
— The Open (@TheOpen) April 6, 2020
"We rely on the support of the emergency services, local authorities and a range of other organisations to stage the Championship and it would be unreasonable to place any additional demands on them when they have far more urgent priorities to deal with.
"In recent weeks we have been working closely with those organisations as well as Royal St George’s, St Andrews Links Trust and the other golf bodies to resolve the remaining external factors and have done so as soon as we possibly could.
"We are grateful to all of them for their assistance and co-operation throughout this process.
“Most of all I would like to thank our fans around the world and all of our partners for their support and understanding. At a difficult time like this we have to recognise that sport must stand aside to let people focus on keeping themselves and their families healthy and safe.
"We are committed to supporting our community in the weeks and months ahead and will do everything in our power to help golf come through this crisis", said Slumbers.
The 149th Open Championship will now be played at Royal St. George's in July of next year, while the 150th Open will be held at St. Andrews in July 2022.