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Why the Masters without the Augusta roars would have left the champion a lesser winner



Good call: Rory McIlroy admits it would have been strange to play The Masters without fans

Good call: Rory McIlroy admits it would have been strange to play The Masters without fans

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Good call: Rory McIlroy admits it would have been strange to play The Masters without fans

Augusta National officials don't often get things wrong when it comes to running The Masters the way club founder Bobby Jones would have wanted.

"A Tradition Unlike Any Other", the phrase coined by CBS's Jim Nantz in 1986, aptly sums up the tournament's unique feel - the azaleas, the rolling green fairways and slick greens and those unmistakable Augusta roars.

In that light, it was no great surprise that Chairman Fred Ridley confirmed yesterday that the season's eagerly-awaited opening major would be postponed or that no new date has been proposed.

"The ever-increasing risks associated with the widespread Coronavirus COVID-19 have led us to a decision that will be disappointing to many, " Mr Ridley said in a statement and no doubt, Robert Tyre Jones Jr. would have nodded in agreement.

"Jones had," wrote The New Yorker's Herbert Warren Wind, "a sense of proportion uncommon in a man with a vigorously perfectionist side to his nature."

Rory McIlroy admitted it would be "so strange" to play the Masters behind closed doors and while he will also be bitterly disappointed that his quest for that elusive green jacket must wait, it is unquestionably the correct decision given the size and scope of the event, which attracts visitors from all over the world.

It would also be unthinkable to stage golf's most colourful and exciting event in sepulchral silence, though one social media wag did suggest that happened two years ago when golf's favourite villain, Patrick Reed, triumphed in 2018

The "patrons" as they like to call the fans that swarm over Augusta National's 365 verdant acres are an integral part of theatre that defines the Masters and without those roars echoing through the pines around Amen Corner on Sunday afternoon, it simply wouldn't be the same.

It would be like Cheltenham without the roar of the Irish punters, Anfield without the Kop, or Marcel Marceau doing Hamlet.

Without ignoring the obvious heath risks, to deny the participants, such as Mallow's Amateur champion James Sugrue or Augusta National Women's Amateur invitee Julie McCarthy a true Masters experience would be a travesty.

It would also have left the champion feeling a lesser winner as surviving that emotional rollercoaster created by the noise as it reverberates through the Cathedral of Pines is what makes a Masters champion deserving of that green jacket.

As Phil Mickelson once said: "The winner of this tournament doesn't just win a major, he becomes part of the history of the game, and that's what excites me. This tournament creates something that is very special, and year in, year out, history is made here."

It's important in these troubled times that leaders lead and Augusta National had a responsibility to make sure it got this decision right.

"Ultimately, the health and well-being of everyone associated with these events and the citizens of the Augusta community led us to this decision,"

Mr Ridley said. "We hope this postponement puts us in the best position to safely host the Masters Tournament and our amateur events at some later date."

His words echoed those of McIlroy, who spared a thought for the beleaguered PGA Tour commissioner, Jay Monahan, who agonised for days before finally cancelling The Players after one round and then postponing the next three tournaments.

Golf is a game for all and it has a duty to protect all.

The coronavirus has decimated the early European Tour schedule and now severely impacted the powerful PGA Tour.

With a return to professional tournament golf still uncertain, it remains to be seen what will happen with the Olympic Games and the Ryder Cup.

Unless things change quickly, postponing them until the danger has passed appears to be the only logical and responsible course of action.

We will not love them any less and will surely cherish them even more as we wait for their return.

If anything, we can watch a re-run of Tiger Woods' incredible 15-major win and his fifth Masters triumph nearly 12 months ago.

The roars might be old but the magic of the Masters will keep us all going until the gates to Magnolia Lane are flung wide once more.

Belfast Telegraph