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The Masters postponed over coronavirus



“Ultimately, the health and well-being of everyone associated with these events and the citizens of the Augusta community led us to this decision,” Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, said in a statement. “We hope this postponement puts us in the best position to safely host the Masters Tournament and our amateur events at some later date.”

The decision came less than 24 hours after the PGA Tour canceled the final three rounds of the Players Championship, as well as the rest of the Tour’s schedule through April 5. The Masters was scheduled to take place the following week, which means the world’s top players are unlikely to play a tournament again until at least mid-April.

Rescheduling the Masters would surely be tricky, and tournament officials might have to target September or later. There is no hole on the summer golf calendar that isn’t otherwise occupied by an existing PGA Tour event. Augusta National holds its tournament in April to take advantage of ideal conditions and weather. The temperature is hot enough by the summer that the course is typically closed until early fall.

The PGA Tour concludes Aug. 30 in Atlanta, just a couple of hours west of Augusta, Ga. The Masters could seek to host its tournament shortly after that, before international players return to their home countries.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan met with reporters Friday morning and highlighted the difficulty in rescheduling a big tournament as he explained why the Tour opted to cancel the Players Championship rather than postpone it.

“As you look into the rest of the season, we have tournaments in every market [that] are well on their way to playing their events, to fundraising,” he said at a news conference in Florida. “You’ve got charities just like we have here that are counting on those events. … We’re going to continue to go forward with the schedule that we’ve outlined and hopefully we can get back and play as soon as possible.”

The Masters has been held in Augusta every year since 1934, except for 1943, 1944 and 1945, when it was canceled during World War II. Tournament organizers had said March 4 that the Masters would take place as scheduled. As major sporting events have been scuttled and leagues shut down this week, pressure mounted and speculation grew as to whether the Masters would take place without fans or be canceled altogether.

“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,” Ridley said in the statement.

Golf officials had considered hosting their tournaments without spectators. In fact, the PGA Tour on Thursday announced it would do just that for the final three rounds of the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, Fla., after allowing fans to follow the first-round action in person. But the Tour reversed course Thursday night, canceling the remainder of the tournament along with the upcoming Valspar Championship, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and the Texas Open.

Monahan said he was strongly influenced by two factors: Players came off the course following the opening round with a lot of questions, and later in the evening Tour officials learned that nearby Disney World and Universal Studios were temporarily closing their gates to visitors.

“That was the final thing that we heard that said: ‘You know what? Even though we feel like we have a safe environment and we’ve done all the right things, we can’t proceed, and it’s not right to proceed,’ ” Monahan said.

The next event on the PGA calendar is the Heritage, which is scheduled to begin April 16, though Monahan noted that Tour officials will continue to monitor coronavirus developments.

“We did everything possible to create a safe environment for our players in order to continue the event throughout the weekend, and we were endeavoring to give our fans a much-needed respite from the current climate,” the PGA Tour said in a statement. “But at this point — and as the situation continues to rapidly change — the right thing to do for our players and our fans is to pause.”

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