GOLF.com conducts a weekly roundtable every Sunday night to break down the hottest topics in the sport. This week, because of the national attention on the coronavirus and its affect on events with large groups — many of which have been canceled or postponed, ranging from the South by Southwest festival to the prestigious Indian Wells tennis tournament — we asked our panelists whether the coronavirus might impact the Masters. To read the this week’s Tour Confidential in its entirety, click here.
Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley released a statement last week regarding the rise of coronavirus cases in the U.S., saying ANGC is monitoring the situation and consulting with experts, but at this time proceeding as planned with the Augusta National Women’s Am; Drive, Chip and Putt; and the Masters. If things get worse, what’s the next step for the green jackets? Postpone the event, cancel it, conduct it without fans? What’s feasible and what isn’t?
Michael Bamberger, senior writer: The Masters will likely do whatever the other Tour events do. If the true medical and crowd-control experts say golf tournaments are not, at all, high-risk environments for the the vast majority of the population, then the Masters will do what the PGA Tour does, which is play on, with a high-caution nod to the elderly and the infirm. A wise early boss of mine once said, Things are never as good and never as bad as they seem.
Josh Sens, senior writer (@JoshSens): If they can pipe in birdsong, why not roars? But this is one of the rare cases where the green jackets might have to, or at least should, defer to a higher authority. Let the public experts issue guidelines/recommendations for gatherings, and trust that Augusta will do the right thing and abide by that wisdom. The average age skews high among patrons, though, so even if the event proceeds as always, you’ve got to think a lot of folks will just tune in on TV.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer (@AlanShipnuck): After reading various doomsday articles about COVID I’m now worried about every event on the schedule. If the U.S. ever starts widespread testing the number of confirmed cases is very likely to spike dramatically, leading to all manner of panic. Postponing would mean, at best, a fall Masters — it’s so hot in Augusta in the summer the club closes and the conditions aren’t right for tournament play. A Masters with no fans would be sad and weird and cheat the players out of the proper experience. We’re only a month out and given the dearth of Coronavirus testing this Masters may get played before there are widespread cancelations of public events. But the PGA and both Opens and the Olympics are all on shakier ground.
Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): I am having a hard time getting my head around the wide-ranging implications of the virus. Ultimately are we supposed to basically not congregate anywhere? Golf tournaments have the benefit of being held outdoors and on massive pieces of property, so it’s not exactly the NYC subway when it comes to contagion. But I’ll defer to the experts — they should, too.
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