(Augusta) It has been eight months since Augusta National postponed the Masters Tournament, due to the pandemic, and seven months since the club targeted mid-November as the best time to play, under the circumstances.
“I hope the environment surrounding the virus improves but April is less than five months away so nothing is certain,” said tournament chief executive Fred Ridley.
“We remain optimistic that conditions in April will be closer to normal. ”
Few things are normal at 84e tournament edition. One of them: departures at both the first and the 10e holes, curtain-raiser-never seen on a Thursday morning, in Augusta.
On Tuesday, Jon Rahm signed a hole-in-one on the 16e. He raised his arms to the sky but around him it was mostly silence.
“Imagine the crowd cheering in normal times,” said Rory McIlroy, referring to the absence of spectators.
“It’s different, but I think you have to appreciate the fact that we’re here and just about to play. This is already something really good. ”
With the exception of World War II and 1971, the Masters Tournament has always been the first major tournament of the year. A rite of spring, azaleas and the quest for the green jacket.
For many, it is normally the start of the golf season – as a player or as an enthusiast of the sport.
The Masters Tournament has a special aura, being played at the same venue every year. The magic of the tournament alone generates suspense.
“All the Masters Tournaments that I have watched over the years in Ireland, the season starts with Masters weekend,” said defending British Open champion Shane Lowry. We dust off the sticks and get started. It’s when the weather goes from 6 to 12 degrees Celsius and it rains but only a little, not tons. ”
Golf had to take a three month hiatus starting in mid-March. The British Open has been canceled. Golf resumed in June, with an accelerated schedule and health risks, given the travel.
“When they canceled the British Open I seriously doubted there would be a Masters Tournament in 2020,” said McIlroy.
“It wasn’t easy for the R&A. If they were pushing back, the daylight in the UK is not enough to get 156 golfers to play. One of the great things about the Masters is that we are in a limited number. ”
A total of 15 players have tested positive for the coronavirus including Dustin Johnson, ranked number 1 in the world.
One player must have missed the PGA Championship in August. Two had to leave the United States Open in September and two others including Sergio Garcia, who triumphed in Augusta in 2017, received positive tests before the Masters.
Golf still continued. The finish line is approaching and the anticipation is growing. The course looks the same as usual, except for the color of the leaves.
“They’ve done a great job of presenting similar terrain to what we’re familiar with,” said Webb Simpson.
-By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press