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Masters mooted for an unprecedented October date as golfing calendar copes with coronavirus outbreak


Rory McIlroy in front of a packed gallery on the third tee at Augusta

Rory McIlroy in front of a packed gallery on the third tee at Augusta

Getty Images

Rory McIlroy in front of a packed gallery on the third tee at Augusta

While it seems highly insignificant given the present pandemic and still a long, long way away, there will eventually be an explosion of sport.

As the world, sooner or later, will come out the other side of the coronavirus outbreak, sporting fixtures will play a key role in lifting the mood of society once more.

As far as golf is concerned, no tournament could do that quite like the Masters.

The first scheduled major of 2020 was the first to be postponed indefinitely as the covid-19 outbreak had its wicked way with the sporting calendar.

Since then, the PGA Tour and European Tour seasons have been postponed until at least mid-May - the US PGA Championship becoming the second major to be put back to an unconfirmed date.

However, rumours are building that the Augusta organisers will do everything in their power to ensure the Masters is played, which it has been every year since its 1934 inception, bar 1943-45 due to the Second World War.

Augusta National traditionally closes from some time in May until October to avoid the summer heat, meaning the options for a reschedule are limited.

That leaves speculation to accelerate around a potential October date for the event, which has been played in April in 81 of its 83 editions - the other two in March.

LPGA Tour player Marina Alex tweeted that her booking at the Augusta Home2 Suites by Hilton from October 6-8 has been cancelled, leading to an increase in suggestions that the new dates of the Masters will be October 8-12.

Other hotels in the area have ramped up pricing for the week in question, with rooms normally available for under $150 being charged at over $1,000.

While there are other events scheduled that week, such as the European Tour's Italian Open, the golfing bodies would surely work together to ensure the Masters doesn't have to skip a year.

As the coronavirus fall-out continues, there were also suggestions that the Ryder Cup, scheduled for Whistling Straits from September 25-28, was set to be shelved until next year, although the US team was quick to rubbish those reports.

In Europe, the top tour is not the only one to fall victim to the virus, with the PGA EuroPro Tour - the third tier of European professional golf - wiping out its entire 2020 campaign.

That includes the event scheduled to be played at Clandeboye GC from August 19-21.

"We will be looking at the possibility of organising some events later in the year once the threat of the Coronavirus has been subsided, however, in the meantime, there are no plans for golf in 2020," said PGA EuroPro Tour's CEO Dan Godding.

Bizarrely, the break in the golfing season has allowed Graeme McDowell to return to the top 50 in the world rankings. The Portrush man had drifted out to 51st but, with no tournaments being played and thanks to the gradual tweaking of the coefficients, he has risen back up to 49th.

It is being discussed, however, that it may be sensible to freeze the rankings until golf returns to prevent any further changes.

Whenever it happens, the resumption of the golfing arena will help to herald a return to normal life.

For now, it all seems so very far away.

Belfast Telegraph