Masters ticket prices plummet in wake of coronavirus

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

For over eight decades sports fans have dreamt of attending the Masters, golf’s best event held on the sport’s most exclusive grounds, Augusta National in Georgia.

Amen Corner. Blooming azaleas. Towering loblolly pines. Pimento cheese sandwiches. Witnessing Tiger Woods march up the hill on No. 18, the way Hogan, Arnie and Jack once did.

This is golfing heaven.

The problem is getting in. You either need to know someone, get lucky in the low-odds ticket lottery or hit the overheated secondary market where a one-day badge routinely soars over $2,000 and sometimes $3,000.

Well, welcome to 2020 and what could be called the Coronavirus Sale.

According to research done by TicketIQ.com, the average asking price of a badge for a Thursday opening round was $3,616 in 2016, $3,211 in 2017 and a whopping $4,475 in 2018.

Masters tickets are among the most sought after in all of sports. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

This year the lowest price for this year’s opening round is $1,458 on StubHub and just $1,080 on SeatGeek (per listings on Tuesday afternoon).

“With fears growing about the coronavirus, and the plummeting stock market, get-in prices for the tournament are down 30 percent and at a five-year low,” said Jesse Lawrence, the founder of TicketIQ.

Those are the list prices, not what’s actually selling, so it is likely to go even lower if concerns increase. 

And the price drop has been sudden, with SeatGeek’s prices down 51 percent in the past seven days alone. 

It’s no better on StubHub, where from March 3-March 10, prices have fallen dramatically. 

A badge for Monday’s practice round was $650 and is now $400 (down 38.5 percent), Tuesday went from $735 to $480 (down 33.8 percent), Wednesday went from $1,270 to $650 (48.9 percent) and Thursday from $2,515 to $1,458 (42.1 percent).

The Masters isn’t alone in plummeting ticket prices. As sports leagues consider banning fans from attending games at all, it seems “self-quarantining” has come into style. The NBA, NHL and college basketball and others have seen ticket prices drop on the secondary market. StubHub didn’t respond to multiple attempts seeking comment. 

If you’re willing to risk infection, then there are relative bargains to be had. On Tuesday night, you could get two, center-court, Loge-section seats at the Staples Center to cheer on the Los Angeles Lakers for $209. You’ll have to wait a long time to see that again — unless it drops by next week.

The Masters, however, is something special. It’s the most reliable big ticket in sports, almost never losing its appeal due to the historic nature of the event, its close ties to corporate America (particularly the New York financial markets and the hallowed-grounds of Augusta National). Even the Super Bowl can radically dip based on location and teams. 

Where else do fans gladly pay $1,000 to watch athletes … practice? That’s because walking the grounds of Augusta is usually the reason people want to attend, not seeing the actual golfers. 

Ticket supply is also tight. Augusta National refuses to give out actual numbers, but there is an estimated 25,000 badges a day. Most go to long-standing ticket holders who renew year after year. Some, but not many, of those get put on the secondary market.

Then there is the lottery system that rewards a winner with four tickets for one day. 

Masters tickets are some of the most inexpensive in all of sports — $115 for a day pass during competition and just $75 for the Monday-Wednesday practice rounds. Augusta National could jack up the ticket prices, but cheap is how the club wants it — parking is also free and concessions stands feature items such as $1.50 egg salad sandwiches and $4 domestic beers.

“As you know, our credentials are very reasonably priced,” Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said last year.

The secondary market, however, isn’t. At least not usually. 

In these strange times where the coronavirus is a chief concern for nearly everyone, even the Masters is (relatively) cheap to get into … and seemingly getting cheaper by the day.

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