The European Tour has taken the highly unusual move of cancelling next week’s Hong Kong Open, the opening event in its 2019-20 season, amid safety concerns as relating to civil unrest. Hong Kong has been in the grip of protests and riots since early June, with golf officials not comfortable they can guarantee the wellbeing of players.
Henrik Stenson, Francesco Molinari and Patrick Reed were due to headline the Hong Kong field. There has been no suggestion at all of annoyance from players at the Tour’s decision, with all stakeholders involved in discussions that have been ongoing for a number of weeks.
“The decision has been taken due to the ongoing level of social unrest in Hong Kong,” explained Keith Pelley, the European Tour’s chief executive. “As the safety of our players, staff, stakeholders and everyone involved in each and every one of our tournaments around the world is our top priority, we feel this is the correct, but unfortunate, course of action.”
There is a loose plan to stage the tournament, which is held in conjunction with the Asian Tour, in early 2020. For now, though, there is understandable scepticism regarding that happening; and, if so, what level of field it will be able to command.
Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and chief executive of the Asian Tour, added: “The unpredictability of the current situation in Hong Kong makes it very challenging to sanction the tournament especially with the safety of everyone of utmost importance. However, we are optimistic that once the situation in Hong Kong stabilises, we will be in a better position to sanction the 61st edition of the Hong Kong Open in the very near future.”
In September the PGA Tour cancelled its Clearwater Bay Open because of events in Hong Kong. Tennis and squash competitions in Hong Kong have also been postponed, all under the banner of safety fears.
Final preparations for the season-ending DP World Tour Championship were affected by another unorthodox circumstance; electric storms in Dubai. As predicted, heavy rain and thunder arrived at Jumeirah Golf Estates from midday, forcing players from the venue. The backdrop is expected to be more typical when play gets under way on Thursday.
Having claimed £2.268m – the biggest single prize in history for a European Tour event – with victory at the Nedbank Challenge on Sunday, Tommy Fleetwood is firmly in the hunt for the overall order of merit prize. He explained that his earlier receipt of the Race to Dubai crown, two years ago, affords him a free mindset this week.
“It’s not like I’m chasing something that I don’t have or haven’t done, so that feeling is lovely,” said the Englishman. “And I guess if there is something on my side, I have the experience of 2017 and 2018 of coming to this event with a chance to win it. You can’t buy experience so I’ll go out there and it won’t be an unfamiliar feeling. It won’t be something that I’ve never done before and [I’m] not used to. Of course I want to win it but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. I’ll be fine.”