The news wasn’t totally unexpected, but it was still a bit surprising – given that it was, well, the Masters. Of all the tournaments, it was this one which seemed to hold enough sway to convince the power brokers that it could lead the way back to some sort of normalcy. But it backed off, and so the 2020 Masters will be contested for the first time without patrons.
Augusta National Golf Club made the announcement on Wednesday morning through a press release.
“Since our initial announcement to postpone the 2020 Masters, we have remained committed to a rescheduled Tournament in November while continually examining how best to host a global sporting event amid this pandemic,” said Fred Ridley, the club and tournament chairman, in the release.
“As we have considered the issues facing us, the health and safety of everyone associated with the Masters always has been our first and most important priority.”
Ridley added that the decision was disappointing, but that tournament safety was a priority.
“Even in the current circumstances, staging the Masters without patrons is deeply disappointing. The guests who come to Augusta each spring from around the world are a key component to making the Tournament so special,” he said in the release.
“Augusta National has the responsibility, however, to understand and accept the challenges associated with this virus and take the necessary precautions to conduct all aspects of the Tournament in a safe manner. We look forward to the day when we can welcome all of our patrons back, hopefully in April 2021.”
The patron-less championship – the final major of the 2020 calendar year – is scheduled for November 9-15, 2020.
Several players, who are in the field at this week’s Wyndham Championship, reacted immediately – all echoing pretty much the same thing: It’s the one course/event where fans make the biggest difference.
“I was saddened to hear that,” said Webb Simpson, following a first-round 66 at Sedgefield Country Club. “I know they’re trying to juggle a lot of different things and trying to make the best decision, but I would say that’s the tournament where fans make the biggest difference.
“You know, you’re used to hearing roars all around the golf course. And as well behaved and quiet as the fans are when you’re hitting, their cheers are loud and we’re going to miss that this year.”
Paul Casey was stunned when asked about the news.
“It’s going to be surreal,” said Casey before teeing off this afternoon. “What will the experience be like? It’s the one place I truly feel like the players are rock stars. You stand on that first tee and everybody pays attention to the golfers that are in front of them and you feel very, very special as a player playing there.
“That’s clearly not going to be the case this year. It’s special to play there, the golf course is amazing, but I don’t know what to think yet, I honestly don’t. It might be quiet, it might be eerie, I don’t know.”
Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters winner, said the tournament will lose its high-energy feel.
“I really can’t fathom it, but that being said, I can’t fathom not having the Masters tournament this year,” Johnson said, before his afternoon tee time in Greensboro.
“Thursday through Sunday, we would love to have fans out there. There’s an entertainment value in our product, in our game, in our sport that’s immense and it’s fun knowing there’s energy out there.
“You want that energy. Specifically in 2007, yeah, I felt like I was being pushed with high energy by the fans.”
The club also announced that all 2020 ticket holders will be guaranteed the same tickets for the 2021 Masters.