Three weeks ago, the Augusta National Golf Club issued a press statement about the forthcoming Masters Tournament, to be held from April 8-11. The club chairman, Fred Ridley, said: “Following the successful conduct of the Masters Tournament last November with only essential personnel, we are confident in our ability to responsibly invite a number of patrons to Augusta National in April. As with the November Masters, we will implement practices and policies that will protect the health and safety of everyone in attendance. Nothing is, or will be, more important than the well-being of all involved.”
All very sensible. But also very optimistic, surely. It’s not as if the death toll in the United States is showing any sign of slowing down. It has risen every day for the past five days, with an average increase of 6,000 per day. I hope the Masters’ organisers are proved correct but the global situation does not look good right now, even though vaccines are gradually coming on stream. It is looking increasingly likely that if the Olympic Games do go ahead in Tokyo this summer, they will have to be without spectators. (Remember, there are men’s and women’s golf tournaments scheduled for that.) In 2016, some eligible participants declined to go to Rio de Janeiro because of the threat posed by the zika virus. That seems like child’s play compared to the coronavirus. The International Olympic Committee might be advised to consider saying it’s Tokyo in 2022, Paris goes back a year to 2025 and normal service is resumed in Los Angeles in 2028?
You probably noticed that Donald Trump got himself into a spot of bother shortly before he left office, what with inciting his fans to march on the Capitol. (I don’t think I need to use the word ‘allegedly’ there?) You may also have noticed that the day after that, therefore on January 7, he presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian honour in the country – to Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam. There are plenty of things I could comment about that but I’ll restrict myself to one that ties in to my point about the Masters and Covid-19. Sorenstam explained the ceremony was only held in January because it had been moved from its original March date because of coronavirus. To state the obvious, the virus is way more rampant now than it was last spring.
Plus, of course, Trump has had next year’s USPGA Championship removed from his course at Bedminster, New Jersey. It will be played at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, instead. The R&A had not awarded any Open Championship to Trump’s course at Turnberry since he acquired it in 2014. The statement it issued in the wake of the unpleasantness in Washington – ”We had no plans to stage any of our championships at Turnberry and will not do so in the foreseeable future. We will not return until we are convinced that the focus will be on the championship, the players and the course itself and we do not believe that is achievable in the current circumstances” – makes it plain, I think, that part of Ayrshire will not be getting the Open until Trump has gone away.
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