Masters to be held without patrons in 2020 due to COVID-19

(Reuters) - The Masters, which brings together the world’s best golfers in one of the sport’s four majors, will be held without patrons in November because of the COVID-19 outbreak, Augusta National Golf Club said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Fred Ridley, Chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, attends the ceremonial start on the first day of play at the 2019 Master golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, U.S., April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Organizers had been examining how best to host the global sporting event ever since the pandemic forced the postponement of the tournament, traditionally held during the first full week of April at Augusta National.

“Throughout this process, we have consulted with health officials and a variety of subject matter experts,” Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley said in a statement.

“Ultimately, we determined that the potential risks of welcoming patrons and guests to our grounds in November are simply too significant to overcome.”

Ridley said Augusta National, which will host the Masters from Nov. 12-15, will “hopefully” be able to welcome patrons back in April 2021.

Golf is coming off its first major championship of the COVID-19 era, played without fans at last week’s PGA Championship in San Francisco.

The Sept. 17-20 U.S. Open in Mamaroneck, New York, will also have no fans on site while this year’s British Open, scheduled to be held in July at Royal St George’s in Kent, was canceled.

The PGA Tour has yet to allow fans attend any tournament since it returned to action in June from a three-month COVID-19 hiatus, a move that will carry though the circuit’s 2019-20 season finale at the Sept. 4-7 Tour Championship.

The Masters, known for the beauty of its layout and deafening roars that echo through towering pines lining a pristine course, attracts spectators from all over the world.

As the only permanent home for one of golf’s four majors, the allure of the Augusta National has made tickets to the Masters among the most coveted in all of sports.

“Even in the current circumstances, staging the Masters without patrons is deeply disappointing,” said Ridley. “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 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.”

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Gareth Jones, Nick Tattersall and Andrew Cawthorne