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Lowry: Jug is in safe hands

British Open champ looks forward to Sandwich 2021

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TASTE OF VICTORY: Shane Lowry kisses the Claret Jug after winning the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Portrush, Antrim last July. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

TASTE OF VICTORY: Shane Lowry kisses the Claret Jug after winning the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Portrush, Antrim last July. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

TASTE OF VICTORY: Shane Lowry kisses the Claret Jug after winning the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Portrush, Antrim last July. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Shane Lowry insisted that the Claret Jug will be in "safe hands" for another 12 months after The Open became the latest global event to fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic.

While golf's leading organisations issued a joint statement setting out a tentative schedule for the game's Major events in the latter half of the year - with the Masters set for November for the first time - the R&A was forced to cancel the 149th Open Championship scheduled for Royal St George's from July 16-19.

"It's disappointing that the news has just come out," Lowry told Sky Sports News, shortly after the R&A announced that the 149th Open will be played at the Sandwich venue in 2021.

"I have obviously got mixed emotions about it. I'd love to be going back to Royal St George's this year to defend but the R&A have made their decision and that decision is based on the health and safety of the spectators, the players and everyone involved that's going to be there, so we will have to wait until 2021.

"It's a weird time, isn't it? There is no Open Championship in the calendar year. It's weird and it's something that I've never known and it's been a long time since that's happened.

"But it's in safe hands for the next 12 months and I look forward to going to Royal St George's to defend it in 2021."

On the first cancellation of The Open since World War II, The R&A's chief executive Martin Slumbers said: "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."

While The Open is cancelled, the game's leading organisations hope the Covid-19 crisis will abate and allow them to play the US PGA (August 6-9), the FedEx Cup play-offs (August 10-September 7), the US Open (Sept. 17-20), the Ryder Cup (September 25-27 as planned) and the Masters (November 12-15) in a highly ambitious, 101-day span.

"The impossible jigsaw starts to come together," Graeme McDowell tweeted when the game's leading organisations issued a joint statement on the potential new schedule.

The biggest change is the proposed November 12-15 date for the Masters at Augusta National, which was previously scheduled for this week - April 9-12 - before being postponed on March 13.

While the European Tour has postponed the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco (June 4-7), and cancelled the Scandinavian Mixed (June 11-14), it has yet to announce its plans for the remainder of 2020 with just six weeks to be filled between the Ryder Cup and the Masters.

Paul McGinley, who is a member of the European Tour board, is simply hoping that sport can return to normal in 2021.

"Unfortunately, there are a lot of casualties in the sporting calendar at the moment and now The Open has gone by the wayside," he said.

"It's great that (it will happen at Sandwich in 2021) and is not just taken out of the calendar."