Augusta without the 'patrons' just isn't right

MAGIC: Tiger Woods celebrates on the 18th hole to win the 2019 Masters. Pic: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

Brian Keogh

Augusta National officials don't often get things wrong when it comes to running the Masters Tournament in 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 the club's chairman Fred Ridley confirmed yesterday that the season's eagerly awaited opening Major would be postponed and 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," Ridley said in a statement, and no doubt Robert Tyre Jones Jr would have nodded in agreement.

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 may wait another year, it is unquestionably the correct decision, given the size and scope of the event.

It would also be unthinkable to stage golf's most colourful and exciting event in 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 the 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 or Anfield without the Kop. Without ignoring the 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."

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.

If anything, we can watch a re-run of Tiger Woods' incredible 15th 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.