Update, 3/13, 10:48 a.m. ET: The Masters has officially been postponed. There’s no new date set as of yet. Augusta National closes in late spring for the summer, creating the possibility of a fall Masters.
The Masters is reviewing multiple contingency plans in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, including not allowing fans (or “patrons” in the nomenclature of the hidebound club) though the gates. Golf’s first men’s major is just four weeks away at Augusta National, and would be played after many other sports leagues have closed their stadiums to the public or outright suspended events.
Alan Shipnuck of Golf Magazine tweeted the contents of a text message from a member indicating that Augusta National may limit or forbid fans from entering Augusta National, and could cancel some of the pre-tournament events that have become popular traditions during the week.
Just got a text from an Augusta National member: “I believe the tournament will be played. Discussions are ongoing. Limiting patrons seems likely. Might be none at all. Closing practice rounds, canceling the Par-3...everything is on the table. Expect an announcement next week.”— Alan Shipnuck (@AlanShipnuck) March 12, 2020
That plan could change if the pandemic worsens in the coming weeks, and the Masters may still be canceled altogether. The member added to Shipnuck, “If the numbers spike that changes everything.”
Joel Beall of Golf Digest also reported that the Masters is putting every option on the table right now. Multiple sources told him that cancelling the tournament “is not expected at this time.”
If patrons are allowed through the gates, tickets to this year’s Masters could be much more affordable — i.e., the cost of one-month’s rent instead of, say, three or four. Masters tickets are among among the hardest and most expensive to acquire in sports, with prices that soar to unrealistic levels just to see a day in person.
Like everything else about the Masters — from its concession prices to its rules against running — ticketing works differently than it does in the rest of the sports world. The daily number of patrons allowed on the grounds is capped, and a badge system keeps tickets in the same hands for many years. It’s the most famous golf tournament in the world, held on a non-rotating venue that happens to be the most famous golf course in the world. Demand tends to be significant.
This year, however, might be an exception, thanks to the “Coronavirus Sale,” as Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel termed it. Prices for daily tickets for both practice rounds and tournament days are dropping dramatically, sometimes more than 50 percent compared to the highs of recent years. According to Outside The Cut, which first spotlighted some of these steep price drops on Monday, a Thursday round badge this year is going for as low as $1,596. The average resale price for Thursday was $4,697 (via TickPick) in early March of last year.
Outside the Cut also charted numbers from SeatGeek, which measured this year’s price drop at approximately 50 percent for all four tournament days. Wetzel cited research from TicketIQ.com, which quoted the average asking price for Thursday at $3,616 in 2016, $3,211 in 2017 and $4,475 in 2018, with a low price for this year’s first round currently at $1,080 on SeatGeek and $1,458 on StubHub.
The Masters is a tough ticket any time of year, with lottery rejection emails now a summer tradition. In recent years, however, the resale market has typically skyrocketed in the spring. Tiger Woods’ healthy and competitive return to the game, along with a few other storylines, inspired Jim Nantz to call 2018 the most anticipated Masters ever. This year, Woods
will is supposed to return as an improbable defending champion, and presumably there will be a lot of interest. Despite Augusta National’s best efforts to crack down on reselling, prices might have topped last year’s market.
But the sports world is reckoning with the impacts of the coronavirus, and health organizations across the world are recommending against large public gatherings. Sporting events are hardly vital to society, and protecting people from environments that could lead to the spread of the virus should be a top priority. Already, we’ve seen college basketball conference tournaments and major tennis tournaments cancelled. A NASCAR race was postponed, and NCAA tournament games are, as of now, closed to the public. The NBA and NHL have suspended their seasons.
The Masters could announce its plan next week. Augusta National, which rarely comments publicly on anything, did release a statement on Wednesday, March 4, saying the Masters and Augusta National Women’s Amateur are proceeding as planned, for now.
Augusta National is not only monitoring the situation closely, but also consulting with relevant experts, including the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Georgia Department of Public Health and local authorities.
As a result of the collaboration, and based upon our knowledge of the situation at this time, we are proceeding as scheduled for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals and the Masters Tournament. We will continue to review the available facts and information with the experts and authorities, establish precautions and take appropriate action to ensure the safety of all involved.
The PGA Tour also released a statement on March 2 saying that there are “no planned schedule changes” to its calendar, aside from the already announced disruption to the PGA Tour China series. After the cancellation of SXSW in Austin, another Tour statement was issued on March 6 saying WGC Match play in Austin would go on as scheduled with fans in attendance. There have also been rampant rumors and denials by the PGA of America that the PGA Championship, scheduled for mid May in San Francisco, could be relocated.
This week, the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass announced that it would proceed as planned. The Players is the crown jewel of the PGA Tour, played at the league’s headquarters with the biggest purse in the game (bumped to an astonishing $15 million this year). It’s also a typically grand and happy golf festival spread out over the Stadium Course, with many corporate partners involved.
However, the tournament is expected to be closed to fans over the final three days, as well as at next week’s PGA Tour stop. The attendance figure for The Players, per the championship’s website in 2019, is roughly 200,000 people spread over four tournament days.
The demand for a Masters ticket it much higher than the demand for a Players ticket, however. This year, you may — may — be able to actually afford one. Whether you’ll be able to use it is another matter.