Augusta National is reviewing contingencies for the 2020 Masters amid growing concerns of the coronavirus, multiple sources have told Golf Digest.
On March 4, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley released a statement reassuring fans that the Masters, along with the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, will proceed as scheduled.
“The safety, health and well-being of everyone is our top priority at Augusta National Golf Club,” Ridley said in a statement. “We will continue to review the available facts and information with the experts and authorities, establish precautions and take appropriate action to ensure the safety of all involved.”
However, much has changed in the past week.
The World Health Organisation classified the COVID-19 as a global pandemic on Wednesday, with WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stating, “We’re deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction.” Also on Wednesday, the NCAA declared its March Madness men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will not allow fans into the arenas, with conferences following the NCAA’s lead on their championships this week. On Wednesday night, the NBA suspended its season due to a player testing positive for the virus, and US President Donald Trump issued a travel ban to 26 European countries in hopes of aiding virus containment. On Thursday morning, the MLS also suspended its season.
While Augusta National has continued to monitor the situation throughout the health crisis, sources said the latest developments “have put all options on the table” in regards to the Masters.
Some of the contingencies include limiting patron access or banning patrons from the course entirely, as well as cancellations of practice rounds, the Par-3 Contest, the ANWA and the DCP. Multiple sources did insist that cancelling the tournament “is not expected at this time”.
A decision could be announced as early as this weekend but likely won’t come until next week, not only giving the club more time to review the situation but also not to take attention away from the Players Championship. The PGA Tour decided to begin the Players Championship as scheduled overnight, with fans in attendance at TPC Sawgrass, although after the first round there will be no fans on-site at PGA Tour events for the next few weeks.
As of this writing, Augusta National Golf Club has not responded to a request for an official statement on the situation.
Golf Digest’s Brian Wacker contributed to the reporting of this story. This story will continue to be updated.