The Masters, held at the iconic Augusta National Golf Club, was postponed from April to November with the hope that some percentage of paying fans could attend the event in the fall despite concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
That won't be the case for the tournament that officially begins Thursday morning, though, and there is no guarantee that spectators will be welcomed to the 85th Masters scheduled for next April.
"We would need to see objective data that would give us a high level of confidence that we could bring large numbers of people onto the grounds for April,'' Augusta National and Masters chairman Fred Ridley told reporters on Wednesday, per Bob Harig of ESPN. "I think the vaccine — I don't want to get into medical prognostications — but just logically as a layperson, the vaccine while it will be wonderful when it happens, there are all kinds of issues that point to beyond April (for the vaccine) as the silver bullet.
"As it relates to (COVID-19) testing, there are some real opportunities there. Our staff has been exploring those very deeply. We have a number of people who are very interested in helping us. It is something we will be looking very hard at. It'll be a wonderful circumstance if we could test large numbers of people.''
COVID-19 cases spiking throughout the United States ahead of Thanksgiving make attempting to predict whether or not mass gatherings will be acceptable five months down the road, let alone permitted by local health and safety guidelines, a futile exercise.
"With so much that goes into putting on a major sporting event, there has to be significant lead time," Ridley explained. "We will make the decision based on the best information possible. We do have hopes that the tournament in April will be closer to normal than it is right now.''
Augusta National and the PGA Tour announced in August that this year's Masters would be played without fans. Club members, spouses of players and coaches are allowed on the grounds during the tournament.