About 90 golfers. About 90 caddies. Some rules officials. A couple hundred camera folks and support staff for a pooled television feed that can be beamed around our increasingly quarantined world (and who knows how it’ll be by April).
Even the commentators didn’t need to be on the grounds of Augusta National, they could be tucked away in a sterile studio somewhere.
The Masters 2020 would have truly been a tradition like no other. A vision of normalcy. A glimpse of hope. A moment of distraction.
But even that doesn’t seem possible.
Augusta National announced the Masters has been postponed. Same with its affiliate youth and women’s events. Not canceled, just “postponed.” Yet even that seems like just a fading thread of false hope.
“Unfortunately the ever-increasing risks associated with the widespread conoravirus COVID-19 have led us to a decision that undoubtedly will be disappointing to many, although I am confident it is appropriate under these unique circumstances,” chairman Fred S. Ridley said in a statement.
“Ultimately, the health and well-being of everyone associated with these events and the citizens of the Augusta community led us to this decision,” Ridley continued. “We hope this postponement puts us in the best position to safely host the Masters Tournament and our amateur events at some later date.”
We’ll see. The Masters weren’t scheduled to begin until April 9, although the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals were set for a week prior.
This is just the latest cancellation. March Madness is over. The XFL is canceled. Seemingly all spring college sports, too. High schools and youth sports will likely follow. The NBA, NHL, MLS, PGA and Major League Baseball are suspended. Major conferences, concerts, festivals and parades are done.
Yet because of the nature of golf — lots of space between competitors, lots of space in general — it felt like maybe this could be the one that survived.
Because Augusta National doesn’t usually stay open in the summer in regular times, this feels more like a cancellation than a postponement.
Maybe America contains this virus. Maybe it’s not as bad as feared. Maybe. We can certainly all hope for that, but at this point, that doesn’t seem likely. Anything that isn’t deemed essential is being stripped from the calendar in an effort at slowing the spread.
This one stings a bit though for sports fans. It’s not just a golf tournament to many. It’s a rite of spring, it’s an annual tradition, it’s a chance to tune in and gaze at impossibly green fairways and blooming azaleas and gurgling creeks.
Closing down NBA arenas makes complete sense. It was fair to hope that somehow golf could carry on though without fans. Augusta National made the prudent and wise decision here, this isn’t a criticism, just an expression of disappointment that the coronavirus could even make this seem dangerous.
With no gallery, you just have a small field of golfers walking around a 350-acre paradise. And it is staged at a country club that even during normal times is pristine and clean and essentially walled off from the outside community.
So yeah, people hoped. And yes, people wished.
By early-to-mid-April the chance for a major sporting event to watch on television seemed like it might be a gift. Not merely a luxury, but a morale-boosting distraction from what promises to be a long, slow grind of boredom and caution and confusion in a war against a faceless virus.
There is a lot of fear out there. A lot of anxiety. Health. Economic. Emotional. Some handle it with ease. Many others don’t. By April no one knows how much worse it could be, how big a death toll, how widespread the misery.
The Masters would have been important.
Sadly, these days, there are far, far more important things to deal with.
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