Five days after Australian Golf Digest first reported that the Open Championship would be cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the R&A made it official overnight. Originally scheduled for July 16-19 at Royal St George’s in England, this year’s tournament will not be held, leaving just three men’s Majors to be (hopefully) contested in 2020.

“Our absolute priority is to protect the health and safety of the fans, players, officials, volunteers and staff involved in the Open,” R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said in a statement on Monday. “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.

“I can assure everyone that we have explored every option for playing the Open this year, but it is not going to be possible.”

It marks the first time the Open will not have been played since 1945, when it was cancelled because of World War II.

While announcing the cancellation of this year’s event, Slumbers also revealed changes to the Open schedule for the next two years. Royal St George’s will now be the venue for the 2021 Open Championship and the Old Course at St Andrews will from 2021 to 2022. This will allow the R&A to continue to celebrate the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews.

The announcement also comes just days after Slumbers had released a statement saying that no decision had been made on the fate of the Open, following Golf Digest’s initial report citing multiple sources. “We are continuing to work through our options for The Open this year, including postponement,” he said at the time.

However, sources reiterated the tournament would ultimately be cancelled rather than postponed.

“There are many different considerations that go into organising a major sporting event of this scale,” Slumbers said in the release, elaborating on the decision. “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. 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.”

Part of the reason the championship is being cancelled – rather than postponed as the Masters and PGA Championship have been and the US Open is expected to be – is because of insurance, according to a source. Similar to Wimbledon, the R&A has a policy that shields against a global pandemic, the source said.

The news also comes on the heels of the All England Club cancelling the Wimbledon tennis tournament (scheduled for June 29) last Wednesday.

The R&A said that it will transfer over tickets and hospitality packages purchased for the 2020 championship to the Open in 2021. Purchasers who no longer wish to (or are no longer able to) attend in 2021 can receive a full refund. More information on this process will be sent directly to ticket and hospitality purchasers in due course.