The Masters, the year’s first major championship and a primary rite of spring for even the most casual of golf fans, has been postponed, another casualty of the outbreak of coronavirus.
Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, made the announcement Friday morning less than 12 hours after the PGA Tour had terminated play following the first round of The Players Championship and canceled the next three tournaments on the tour schedule.
“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 a statement.
“Ultimately, the health and well-being of everyone associated with these events and the citizens of the Augusta [Ga.] community led us to this decision. 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 tournament had been set for April 9 through 12. The club also hosts the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, both on the weekend before the Masters.
Ridley did not indicate when the Masters will be rescheduled, or whether the other two tournaments will be part of the new schedule. Augusta National, a private club, traditionally closes in May and reopens in October.
The postponement puts on hold the bid of defending champion Tiger Woods to win a sixth green jacket, which would tie Jack Nicklaus’ record, and second in a row. Woods’ victory last year was his 15th career major, three off Nicklaus’ record.
In an interview Friday with ESPN, Nicklaus said he agreed with the decision to postpone the Masters, calling it “the right thing to do,” but added that he didn’t think it could be rescheduled.
“In all practicality, they’re postponing but I can’t see any way they’d play it at a later date,” Nicklaus said. “How in the world could they work it into the schedule? It wouldn’t be fair to any other tournament that’s later. I think we’re going to miss the Masters this year. That’s just my opinion, but I think that makes logical sense.”
The Masters has been played every year since its inception in 1934, except from 1943 through 1945 because of World War II. It has been played in April of every year except 1934 and 1939.