Opinion: Men’s golf finally accepts new reality, makes right call to postpone the Masters

As leagues and sports quickly postponed, suspended or cancelled events during the past few days due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, one high-profile sport became a significant holdout:

Men’s golf.

The Players, the PGA Tour’s so-called fifth major, went ahead with its first round Thursday — with spectators in attendance — while the Masters was sticking with its March 4 statement that its high-profile show would go on.

Reality, and sanity, hit late Thursday night and again Friday morning. The Players was cancelled first. Then the Masters was postponed. Golf has finally joined the rest of the sports world in shutting itself down for the good of us all. 

“Unfortunately, the ever-increasing risks associated with the widespread Coronavirus COVID-19 have led us to a decision that undoubtedly will be disappointing to many, although I am confident is appropriate under these unique circumstances,” Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said in a statement Friday morning, postponing not only the Masters, set to begin April 9, but also the second annual Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

The significance of the Masters postponement is obvious. It’s one of the biggest sports events in the world, a cultural rite of spring. But even more important is the fact that it is not played in March, but rather in mid-April.

So far, almost every sporting event to shut down has been scheduled in March. The Masters postponement takes us well into April, as does the Boston Marathon decision to move to September.

It’s a sobering thought, but those two events just showed us the future. Events even a month away now are a no-go. What does that mean for MLB, the NBA and the NHL?

We received a hint of this with college sports cancelling their spring schedules, but most of those had a foothold in March. The Masters is all April.

Men’s golf has now made the right call, just as the LPGA did earlier in the day Thursday. It’s sad that it has come to this, of course, but also entirely proper. It would be unconscionable to play any game, much less a sport still so linked with elite country clubs, during these trying times in the United States and around the world.

And yet, could there be a tiny sliver of joy to be salvaged by this decision? Consider this: Tiger Woods, whose comeback story leading to victory last year was one of the most compelling sports moments of 2019, gets to remain defending Masters champion a little bit longer.

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