| 9.9°C Belfast


Adam McKendry

Why the Masters could be our shining beacon at end of coronavirus crisis

Adam McKendry


 

Close

Woods from hosting his own version of the traditional Augusta Champions Dinner. On social media, he posted a picture of himself in his Green Jacket, with his children, Sam and Charlie, also decked in green, as well as his girlfriend, Erica and their two dogs. On the table sat the Masters Trophy. Woods’s caption said: ‘Masters Champions Dinner quarantine style. Nothing better than being with family’

Woods from hosting his own version of the traditional Augusta Champions Dinner. On social media, he posted a picture of himself in his Green Jacket, with his children, Sam and Charlie, also decked in green, as well as his girlfriend, Erica and their two dogs. On the table sat the Masters Trophy. Woods’s caption said: ‘Masters Champions Dinner quarantine style. Nothing better than being with family’

Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus

Getty Images

Woods from hosting his own version of the traditional Augusta Champions Dinner. On social media, he posted a picture of himself in his Green Jacket, with his children, Sam and Charlie, also decked in green, as well as his girlfriend, Erica and their two dogs. On the table sat the Masters Trophy. Woods’s caption said: ‘Masters Champions Dinner quarantine style. Nothing better than being with family’

Had life still been proceeding as normal, at around 1pm this afternoon we would have been watching Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player taking part in their annual tradition of hitting the first tee shots of The Masters at Augusta.

I consider myself incredibly blessed to have attended the last two Masters, and on both occasions I took the opportunity to watch the two legends of the game tee off and get the first Major of the year under way.

For those of us who are too young to have ever watched the two greats competing at the top of leaderboards in person, simply being able to witness them back at the venue of some of their greatest achievements is something that cannot be put into words.

But Nicklaus (and Player's Thursday morning tee time is not what starts The Masters. For to call the tournament a four-day event is doing it a disservice.

Nowadays, it's a week-long festival of golf that begins a whole week prior with the final round of the newly-created Augusta National Women's Amateur Championship, continues with the Drive, Chip & Putt finals and has its 'down day' with the fairly relaxed Par Three Contest on the Wednesday.

The members walk around in green jackets and they'll tell you of the pride they have in their club, and rightly so. The place is immaculate, every fairway and green trimmed to perfection and the azaleas in full bloom down by the 13th green. It's a golfer's paradise.

Indeed, by the time Nicklaus and Player are applauded onto the first tee, golf fans have already been treated to plenty that should sate their appetite, and they haven't even been served the main course yet.

Of course, this year the coronavirus has left us hungry, the usual star-studded field left self-isolating at home this week while the hallowed fairways of Augusta National are empty when they should have been packed by eager golf enthusiasts.

Plans are now in place for a new intended date in November which, of the three rescheduled Majors, looks the most realistic to take place this year if at all possible. It's still a big if, of course, with nobody sure when life can return to normal after the end of the lockdown, but it is something to work towards.

But just think about the impact that this tournament has had on the golfing calendar as a whole. This was meant to be the 'season starter', the big event that really began the summer of golf. Now, we simply hope that it can be played in seven months' time instead.

And, arguably, for the sake of golf, it could really do with going ahead.

With the way Covid-19 is ravaging the USA, August looks to be an incredibly optimistic date for the US PGA Championship. September also looks somewhat hopeful for both the US Open and the Ryder Cup. The Open has already bitten the dust, cancelled and rescheduled at Royal St George's for 2021.

At this stage, The Masters may be the only Major that could go ahead - if that's even possible given the unknowns posed by Covid-19 - in which case it takes on even more importance as the one shining beacon in a year of lost sporting events.

Consider the appeal that The Masters has beyond golfing fans. A total of 18.3million people tuned in to watch Tiger Woods' emotional victory last year - those aren't all golfing fanatics.

So in a year which has seen the Olympics, football's European Championships and a whole host of other high-profile events fall by the wayside, how great would it be to see The Masters manage to survive as the crowning sporting event of the year?

Sure, it wouldn't be the same compared to if it had been held this week. The azaleas won't be in full bloom and the likelihood is that most of the golfers won't be at the peak of their game having spent so long off the course.

Would anybody mind? All that golfers worldwide want to do is get back on the course and compete at the highest level again.

And if the earliest that can happen is in November, then there would be few better places to do it than at Augusta.

Belfast Telegraph