News & Opinion

Masters could be our new fall classic

The Masters
The 13th green during Wednesdays preview at the The Masters , Augusta National, Augusta, Georgia, USA. 10/04/2019. Picture Fran Caffrey / Golffile.ie All photo usage must carry mandatory copyright credit (© Golffile | Fran Caffrey)

The bloom would be off of Augusta National's colorful grounds if the Masters were to move to October, but everything else about the postponed event would be radiant

Hawk & Purk Podcast Hero Article

Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the weekly Hawk & Purk podcast on MorningRead.com, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

If the 2020 Masters were to be played in October, would it remove any luster from the event?

We’re talking about the greatest sporting event on earth, so you could drop it into the middle of February and we’d still bask in the radiance. In deference to St. Valentine, however, the Masters defines spring as much as the bloom of flowers or the smell of freshly cut grass. It wouldn’t be the same in any other month, not so much for reasons involving weather or conflicts with other sports, but the harsh ramifications of coronavirus-related reality.

A reconfigured schedule is likely to cram this year’s majors into a much smaller time window, which could have a substantial impact on the game’s competitive dynamic. Contesting the game’s four biggest tournaments over a six- or eight-week stretch in the fall would turn the end of the season into a fire drill; the sum of the parts simply couldn’t match the value and prestige of each major individually.

What about the FedEx Cup? Does the PGA Tour scrap its original postseason plan and deem each major to be a playoff event? There’s also the Ryder Cup to consider, plus the fact that this year’s schedule already had been condensed to accommodate the Olympics. It’s a giant headache, with no easy answers. And the longer pro golf hibernates, the more difficult those solutions become.

In any scenario, the Masters should receive top priority when the game’s honchos attempt to reconstruct a season derailed by the deadly pandemic. The azaleas will have come and gone, but the relevance will live on, just not with the same joyful anticipation to which we’ve grown so accustomed.

Purk’s take: If the final round of the Masters were played on Christmas Eve, it would be all right with me. Just as long as it commences sometime in 2020. The prevailing wisdom and just plain rumormongering say that Augusta National is looking at the second week in October to play the traditional first major of the year.

That’s OK, too. Of course, it won’t be anywhere near the same in the fall. No azaleas or dogwoods in bloom. And no springtime magic as full-throated roars come rumbling through the pines on Sunday afternoon. Somehow, you have to believe that given what we’re struggling with, the Masters in October would likely be a little more subdued than it would have been in April.

As far as television is concerned, frankly, it doesn’t matter if the Masters competes with NCAA football and the NFL for viewers. Here’s a bet that the Masters gets higher ratings than college or the pros, if football is even being played by then.

Of course, nothing is more important than the end of the coronavirus crisis. But if it should abate by October and we can get our lives partially back, the Masters would be a great way to celebrate, wouldn’t it?

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