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No drives, chips or putts at Augusta: The prospect of spring without the Masters

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All will be quiet at Augusta National on April 9th. The spring sun will shine on no-one. The soft sound of the gentle wind will not be punctuated by cries of ‘get in the hole’.

Amen Corner, the ‘Big Oak Tree’, Ike’s Pond, Rae’s Creek, and all the tall dogwoods, junipers and finely pruned shrubs that grace this supremely beautiful golf course will stand idly by, untouched by the world’s best – for now at least.

The postponement of the 2020 Masters due to the coronavirus will represent the first time the tournament has been played outside of March or April since its inception in 1934. For fans all around the world, early April will not be the same without golf’s first sign of spring – when the cream of the crop converge in a tournament endlessly deserving of its title.

All we’ll be left with are the memories of last year’s tournament, when Tiger Woods proved his enduring class to win his fifth Masters title. It was a story of redemption, of triumph over adversity – the vanquishing of physical and emotional demons to once again reach the summit of a sport that demands nothing less than perfection. Woods’ legend status means he is always among the favourites for those who bet on golf, but last year he gave a performance that harked back to the good old days, when he was king of his sport, and when the wide-ranging hardship that would ultimately envelop his career seemed a laughable implausibility.

It was one of the many inspirational stories the Masters has given us, but this year’s chapter in the Augusta history books is looking increasingly uncertain, as the coronavirus and the measures put in place to prevent its spread has put paid to so many sporting events around the world. Golf has suffered as much as any, with the recent Players’ Championship cancelled after one day’s play. May’s PGA Championship also remains under threat, as the estimated length of time this virus will affect society becomes ever more muddied. For now, no-one knows when the 2020 Masters will be held.

The Covid-19 crisis has raised questions over the importance of sport in the grand scheme of things. After all, what significance can 100 men dressed in polo shirts, cream trousers and baseball caps have as they knock a small white ball around with metal sticks, when set against the widespread illness and suffering that the coronavirus has the potential to cause.

Of course it’s true that sport at its most elemental level is nothing more than a trifle, but the entertainment it brings to millions around the world is reason why it holds so much importance. Stories like Woods’ triumph last year are the reason sport enraptures people – that unique, unscripted, unpredictable drama that gives us a feeling that few other pastimes on earth can rival.

That’s why, despite the impact of coronavirus, and the blip in the sporting calendar it has caused, golf, football, tennis, rugby union and all others will endure. It’s why the Masters will retain its significance when the 2020 edition is finally played out, be that in late summer or early Autumn. This break in play for the weeks to come will only increase our appetite for these sporting events when they do eventually roll around. Hunger is the best sauce, after all.

It will be a unique feeling not having the Masters to look forward to as the curtain raiser for this year’s Major championships. For now, golf fans will have to content themselves with the memories of tournaments gone by – the memories of Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros and more which whisper through the pines dotting the famous Augusta course each year. It’s a strange time for golf, and sport as a whole, but the unique magic of the Masters will remain undimmed through it all.

 

 

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