Hong Kong Open organisers are determined to stage the 62nd edition of the city’s oldest professional sports event – but only after the new year.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced sanctioning bodies to seek a week in 2021 to stage the tournament, which is backed by the European Tour, Asian Tour and Hong Kong Golf Association. The event was originally scheduled for the end of November this year.
Travel and quarantine restrictions make it difficult for players to travel in the region, with even the Asian Tour unlikely to stage their remaining events for this season.
“As with all tournaments, the safety and well-being of players, spectators and tournament personnel is our absolute priority,” said Ben Cowen, the European Tour’s deputy chief operating officer international.
“We thank the Hong Kong golf community for their continued understanding and support. A further announcement will be made in due course.”
Last year’s Hong Kong Open was postponed from its December date because of social unrest in Hong Kong but took place in January at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling – without European Tour sanction – and was won for the second time by Australia’s Wade Ormsby.
The tournament still managed to attract some high-profile names in British Open champion Shane Lowry, of Ireland, and American Tony Finau.
The Asian Tour’s chief executive Cho Minn Thant said they would work with the European Tour and the HKGA to identify a suitable date after the new year.
“We are disappointed that the Hong Kong Open will now be postponed to a later date but we fully understand this decision made by the tournament committee, especially in these difficult global circumstances,” said Cho.
“The health and safety of our players, staff and officials remain our highest priority. We will continue to work with all relevant parties and we hope to announce the return of the tournament when the situation has stabilised.”
The European Tour has three tournaments left on its 2020 calendar – the Cyprus Open (October 29 to November 1), the following week’s Cyprus Classic and The World Tour Championship in Dubai in December.
Cho said the Asian Tour would focus on the December to January window to restart their tournaments.
“There is only a slim chance of play this year whilst there are ongoing restrictions and quarantines in the Asian region,” said Cho. “Not only does it make it challenging for competitors and officials to enter a host country but attaining the relevant permissions from local government authorities to hold international sports events or gatherings is still proving difficult.
“Not to mention the high potential of lack of hospitality and spectators which are important to sponsors. We are focusing on a December – January window to restart our tournaments and we have taken the decision to extend the current season until the end of 2021.”
He said the most likely scenario was playing a number of events at a single venue or country to reduce the need for travel.
“With the help of numerous promoters and other supportive parties, the Tour currently has several proposals in play with various governments around Asia and even some further abroad,” said Cho.
“We are working on a restart strategy for the Tour to ensure that we have the best chance of playing as many events as we can as soon as it is practically possible.
“We are committed to staging multiple events at one destination. Back to back events at the same destination will make travel more economical and efficient.
“It’s going to be a while before we will be able to travel freely as we once did, but I am optimistic about the chances of a few destinations being available for the Asian Tour to restart in a controlled manner.”