DUBAI, U.A.E. — The gap between the end of the 2018-'19 European Tour season and the start of the 2019-’20 schedule is still going to be only four days. But the usual doubleheader that kicks things off is no more, at least temporarily. The Alfred Dunhill Championship will still take place next week at Leopard Creek in South Africa, but there will be no Hong Kong Open, at least in the immediate future.
Citing the increasingly volatile political unrest prevalent in what was, until 1997, a British colony—students have been conducting anti-government protests over the past few months—European Tour executive director Keith Pelley announced on Wednesday the postponement of the event that has been part of the tour (and co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour) since 2002.
The decision is understandable and prudent. As recently as Oct. 1, as China celebrated 70 years of Communist Party rule, Hong Kong experienced what has been described as one of its most “violent and chaotic days.” Since then, the state of affairs has only worsened.
“The decision has been taken due to the ongoing level of social unrest in Hong Kong,” Pelley said. “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.
“The European Tour thanks everyone at the Hong Kong Golf Association, the Hong Kong Golf Club and all persons associated with the Hong Kong Open for their hard work in endeavoring to stage the tournament, and we look forward to hopefully returning early next year.”
Echoing those sentiments, Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and CEO of the Asian Tour, said: “It is regrettable that the Hong Kong Open has to be postponed due to the ongoing unrest in the city. 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 stabilizes, we will be in a better position to sanction the 61st edition of the Hong Kong Open in the very near future.”
The tournament, won last year by England’s Aaron Rai, was to be played Nov. 28-Dec. 1 and headlined by three former major champions: Patrick Reed, Francesco Molinari and Henrik Stenson.