The Masters Tournament rescheduled for November will take place without spectators or guests because of the coronavirus pandemic that postponed the event from its original date.
Augusta National and Masters chairman Fred Ridley released a statement Wednesday in which he said, "Ultimately, we determined that the potential risks of welcoming patrons and guests to our grounds in November are simply too significant to overcome."
On April 6, the Monday of what was supposed to be Masters week, the club announced that it was rescheduling the tournament for Nov. 12-15, with every hope of having a full complement of spectators.
The club then said nothing officially until Wednesday, when it became apparent that the current climate and continued level of COVID-19 cases around the country, specifically in Georgia and surrounding states, made having fans at Augusta National impossible to manage.
In a memo sent to club employees and obtained by ESPN, Ridley said: "A Masters without the many guests we welcome from around the world may be hard to imagine. Nonetheless, this should not be viewed as a setback, rather an exciting and historic opportunity to showcase the world's best players on the world's greatest golf course in front of a worldwide audience."
The club also sent an email to badge and ticket holders that was obtained by ESPN, explaining that information will be forthcoming in early September as to how to request a refund or transfer ticket usage to 2021. An opportunity to buy merchandise will also be provided.
"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," Ridley said. "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."
If anyone could have pulled off allowing spectators in this climate, it would have been Augusta National, which has the financial resources to conduct COVID-19 testing and the means to limit spectators on what is a massive piece of property.
2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson said it's difficult to understand not having spectators at this year's tournament.
"I really can't fathom it, but that being said, I can't fathom not having the Masters tournament this year," said Johnson, who is playing in the Wyndham Championship this week. "It's unfortunate. ... 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. ... The relation there with the fans is much more intimate, and I want it back sooner than later."
The PGA Tour is in its 10th week after the pandemic shut down the sport for 13 weeks, with a revamped schedule and three major championships moved. The PGA Championship, won by Collin Morikawa on Sunday, was played without spectators at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Next month's U.S. Open at Winged Foot will also go on without spectators. The Open canceled its 2020 tournament.
The tour tried to have spectators at the Memorial Tournament last month, but it squelched those plans a week prior. It is unclear whether any events before the end of the year will have paying customers.
"Even in the current circumstances, staging the Masters without patrons is deeply disappointing," Ridley said. "The guests who come to Augusta each spring from around the world are a key component to making the tournament so special. Augusta National has a 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 our patrons back, hopefully in 2021."