For the first time since the World War II, The Open has been cancelled owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Gold Association announced Monday. The 149th edition of The Open, which was originally scheduled to take place Royal St George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent, will now be hosted between July 11 and 18 at the same venue. Also Read - Bangladesh Govt Decides Not to Extend COVID-19 Shutdown

“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 this pandemic is severely affecting the UK and we have to act responsibly. It is the right thing to do,” Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said in a statement. Also Read - COVID-19 Cases Cross 1.6 Lakh-mark; Death Toll Above 4,600; Shah Speaks to CMs Over Lockdown Extension | Key Points

“I can assure everyone that we have explored every option for playing The Open this year but it is not going to be possible.” Also Read - COVID-19 Crisis: ECB Delays Start of Domestic Season Till August But Windies Series in July Likely to go Ahead

This is a third major tournament to be called off inside a month. In March, the PGA Championship and The Masters were postponed. The US Open is still supposed to go ahead as planned from June 18 and 21 at Winged Foot in New York but it is assumed the USGA is expected to announce a decision regarding it soon.

“There are many different considerations that go into organising a major sporting event of this scale. 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,” the statement further read.

“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 wider community in the weeks and months ahead and will do everything in our power to help golf come through this crisis.”

Ireland’s Shane Lowry, who won last year’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, tweeted: “Obviously I’m disappointed that I won’t get to defend the Open Championship this year but I feel the R&A have made the right decisions based on people’s health and safety. See you all in Royal St George’s in 2021.”

As for the tickets, the R&A said they will remain valid next year, although those not able to or interested in attending the event in 2021 will receive a refund.