Golf was among the last of the organized sports to shut down due to the novel coronavirus. The Players Championship, long touted to be the pro ranks’ unofficial fifth major event due to its competitive fields and highly regarded home course, actually finished its first round — and with crowds to boot — before being called off. Up until then, United States Professional Golfers Association Tour commissioner Jay Monahan had been adamant in saying the show would go on in light of the varied circumstances under which competitive play occurs.
Thankfully, authorities wised up before any real damage was done. Not long after, other near-term stops on the tour calendar were likewise scuttled. Most prominent among these is the Masters, far and away golf’s premier spectacle. Officials have wisely avoided using the word “canceled” in making the announcement, instead settling for “postponed” to assuage players and fans alike. There is comfort to the choice, certainly, what with its openness to the possibility of normalcy down the line. There is nothing more dramatic than a final-round back-nine charge in front of a frenzied crowd en route to claiming the coveted Green Jacket. And, in turn, there is nothing more disappointing than confirmation of the utter absence of activity in Augusta National.
To be sure, there are logistical hurdles to holding the Masters in abeyance. The pride of Georgia is closed half the year for a reason; weather conditions hamper playability in the summer. Which is why only twice in its history has it hosted the tournament outside of April — but before, and never after. Projecting when the 2020 competition will be held is speculative; assuming community quarantine remains through the next month, the earliest is likely October, when the ryegrass has grown, and when the grounds look as picturesque as always. Before then, odds are low that Club chairman Fred Ridley will allow the gates to open.
Already, living legend Jack Nicklaus has expressed doubts on whether the Masters can be held this year. His sentiments are not unfounded. Unless and until a definitive decision has been made, however, fans aren’t wrong to hope. That said, public safety is paramount. The prospect of foregoing golf at its finest is not a good one, but health concerns trump all others, as even the most diehard followers know.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.