AUGUSTA Masters organisers have confirmed they will postpone this year’s tournament to a date to be determined later in the year.
“Unfortunately, the ever-increasing risks associated with the widespread Coronavirus COVID-19 have led us to a decision that undoubtedly will be disappointing to many, although I am confident is appropriate under these unique circumstances,” said Masters chairman Fred Ridley in a statement released at 10 a.m. on Friday.
“Considering the latest information and expert analysis, we have decided at this time to postpone the Masters Tournament, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals.
“We recognize this decision will affect many people, including our loyal patrons. Your patience as we make every effort to communicate effectively and efficiently is appreciated, and we will share any additional information as soon as it becomes available. Updates also will be posted to our website, Masters.com.”
On March 4, the Masters issued a memo stating that it planned to play the Masters, women’s amateur and DC&P as scheduled, but the escalating fallout from the global pandemic made that option impossible. Sports calendars across the globe have been suspended, with significant cancellations including the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournaments.
Late Thursday night, the PGA Tour opted to abruptly cancel its flagship Players Championship after the first round as well as the next three events on the schedule including the WGC Match Play Championship. The Masters was the next event left on the schedule, and the prospect of playing the season’s first major championship without patrons present did not appeal to tournament officials.
The Masters has always been played in either March or April since it started in 1934. No tournaments were held from 1943-45 because of World War II. The club turned its course over to cattle and turkey to help in the war effort back then before reopening and resuming the Masters in 1946.
Potential options for the 2020 Masters to be played may include May – the month in which the club typically closes for the summer – or September or October before the club resumes operations for the new season. The immediate future of the golf calendar is unknown considering the repercussions from the coronavirus will have to dissipate before sports schedules are resumed.
May would allow the tournament to be played in similar course conditions to April. But the PGA Championship is currently scheduled for May 14-17 in San Francisco, which has been imposing significant coronavirus restrictions on gatherings. Rumors have circulated that the PGA could move to later in the season if the situation requires it.
September or October at Augusta National would be played on Bermuda grasses (other than the greens) that thrive over the summer months in the south.
The PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs end with the Tour Championship on Aug. 30, and the Ryder Cup is scheduled for Whistling Straits Sept. 25-27. The tour’s wrap-around season would usually start with events at the Greenbrier and in Jackson, Miss., in September, but arrangements could probably be made to play the Masters opposite one of them.
The European Tour Italian Open is scheduled two weeks after the Ryder Cup in October, should they choose to stage the Masters just before Augusta National reopens to members. Playing the tournament any later would be unlikely considering the turnaround that would need to be made getting the course back in shape for the 2021 Masters scheduled for April 8-11, 2021.