The R&A's Monday announcement that they were cancelling this year’s Open Championship for the first time since 1945 over the COVID-19 pandemic was sad-but-understandable news for golf fans.
It did, however, come as no surprise for two-time Open champion Padraig Harrington.
The current European Ryder Cup captain had expected such an unfortunate decision about one of his favorite weeks of the year.
“Like all golfers I was disappointed to hear that the Open Championship was cancelled, but it certainly wasn’t unexpected. There are bigger things in play during these unprecedented times and we were expecting an announcement,” Harrington said in a statement to GNN.
The R&A’s chief executive Martin Slumbers made the cancellation announcement in a statement early Monday morning.
“We care deeply about this historic championship and have made this decision with a heavy heart,” the statement read. “We appreciate that this will be disappointing for a great many people around the world, but this pandemic is severely affecting the U.K. and we have to act responsibly. 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.”
Harrington fully understands why the R&A arrived to this decision.
“I think that the R&A took the sensible decision, reasoning that health and safety should always be put at the forefront, understanding that the Open is the not the most important thing at the moment,” his statement continued. “We will wait another year before we get to the Open at Royal St George’s in 2021, when I have no doubt that it will be all the bigger and all the better and we will look forward to it all the more.”
For Webb Simpson’s caddie, Paul Tesori, who has looped in 17 Opens, he won’t miss the long travel hours away from his family during Open Championship week, but he will miss the people of Britain.
“I think the most important thing I’ll miss is just those fans,” Tesori said. “They’re the best fans in the world by far.”
The veteran looper remembers caddying for Simpson at Royal St. George’s in 2011, the last time it was held there, and he recalls Simpson hitting a 3-wood on a par 5 from 260 yards and the crowd erupting with applause. He and Simpson figured that it meant 10-15 feet for eagle. But when they got to the ball, it was just short of the green.
With the wind and the odd bounces of links golf, Tesori says the fans appreciate how difficult some of those longer shots can be.
Tesori is also just a big fan of the Open Championship and its history, and he got to see some of its most recent Open sendoffs during Jack Nicklaus’ last Open in 2005 and Tom Watson’s final one in 2015 -- both at the Home of Golf, which will now host the 150th Open in 2022. Tesori vividly remembers looping for Simpson one group in front of Watson at St. Andrews. It wasn’t until about 10:20 p.m. on that Friday night when Watson made his final farewell wave from the famous Swilcan Bridge on 18 -- virtually in the dark.
There are just certain poignant moments at Open Championships, like Watson’s finale, when golfers and caddies become fans too.
“Me and Webb took video on our phones,” Tesori said. “It was so dark but you could see Tom and see him putt out and all the flashbulbs going off and the people around the green.”
Graeme McDowell also felt lucky to be there late that night.
“It was fantastic, it’s just a poignant moment isn’t it?” McDowell said that night. “It’s an ‘I was there moment’ kind of thing.”
Brandt Snedeker also felt the magnitude of watching Watson’s farewell.
“It was great to see him on 18 and on that bridge, it was unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed or been a part of in golf,” Snedeker said after Watson's finish at the Old Course.
That was just one of many great happenings in the Open Championship’s 148-year history.
As golf fans, it will be a shame to not get those 3 and 4 a.m. wake-up calls to watch 10 hours of the best in the world struggle in sideways rain, then get out to play a leisurely afternoon round ourselves later that day. For West Coast fans, they were even getting late-night golf. In the last four years since Golf Channel/NBC obtained the Open’s TV rights, they were showing first balls in the air at 10:30 p.m. Pacific all the way to the last putt more than a dozen hours later.
You could stay up all night and watch, if you wanted.
To happier days, until The Open begins again next July 11-18, 2021 at Royal St. Georges.