Augusta National first postponed the Masters. Now the home of the Masters is closing its club.
Golf Digest obtained a letter from Chairman Fred Ridley to Augusta National members that says the club will close by the end of the week because of increasing concerns over the new coronavirus and how it might affect the staff.
The club would confirm only that a memo had been sent.
“Beginning today, we are taking the necessary steps to curtail our operations so, by the end of this week, the Club will be closed until further notice,” Ridley said in the memo obtained by Golf Digest.
Ridley said the grounds would be maintained with limited personnel and said other duties would be handled remotely. He said he would review the situation and send timely updates, and he thanked the members for “patience and trust as we plan for the realities of this pandemic.”
The Masters was scheduled for April 9-12. This will be the first time since 1946 — when the Masters resumed after World War II — that golf’s most viewed tournament is not the first full week in April. Augusta National closes about a month after the Masters for the summer and reopens in October.
Still to be determined is when it could be rescheduled, which is the club’s plan. Ridley’s letter comes one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that events of 50 or more people be shut down for eight weeks. That would last until the second full week in May.
Still up in the air is the second major of the year, the PGA Championship, scheduled for May 14-17 in San Francisco.
Kentucky Derby postponed
The Kentucky Derby, long known as the first Saturday in May, will become the first Saturday in September this year in light of the coronavirus crisis that has turned the traditional sports schedule upside down.
Churchill Downs is expected to make an announcement Tuesday morning that the race is being moved to Sept. 5, a person with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak told the Los Angeles Times. The Louisville Courier-Journal also reported the move.
The last time the Kentucky Derby was not held on the first Saturday in May was in 1945, when the U.S. government banned horse racing because of World War II. The war ended shortly after the traditional date of the Derby and the race was held June 9. The race was not held on the first Saturday in May 1901, but was held April 29.
The status of the other Triple Crown races remains unclear. Representatives of the Preakness, two weeks after the Derby, and Belmont Stakes, three weeks after the Preakness, told the Times they will make a statement after Churchill Downs makes an announcement Tuesday.
The moves throw the traditional Kentucky Derby trail into disarray.
California horses, specifically those trained by Bob Baffert, have been brought along to race May 2. He has three undefeated colts, Authentic, Nadal and Charlatan, who are among the top five horses in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association rankings. Authentic is No. 1.
There is a very methodical route to making it to the most famous horse race in the world. Major prep races are held about a month apart so that horses are in top form for the Derby.
The races are the Louisiana Derby in New Orleans on Saturday, the Florida Derby in Hallandale Beach on March 28, or the Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial in New York or Bluegrass Stakes in Lexington, Ky., on April 4. The Arkansas Derby in Hot Springs is April 11.
A message into what this means to the Santa Anita Derby was not immediately returned.
Now, what all of that means, well, no one is sure.
The late date for the Kentucky Derby also comes after the Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., and Travers Stakes at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., which may or may not become prep races for the Kentucky Derby.
Churchill Downs put out a news release late last week saying how important the race was to the city of Louisville, offering hints that running the race without an audience would be a financial burden to a city that relies on the race for a robust economy. Louisville remains a city that raises hotel and other rates well beyond what it would be during non-Derby times.
More will become clear in the next few days as horse racing adjusts to what Churchill Downs decided.
Grand Rapids’ DeVos family, which owns the Orlando Magic, has unveiled plans for a $2 million fund to pay hourly workers who will miss time because of sports shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The $2 million will be earmarked to help about 1,800 workers employed at Magic games, G League games, Orlando Solar Bears minor-league hockey games and other Amway Center events.
... Watkins Glen International has postponed its opening weekend because of the spread of COVID-19. The traditional opening of the storied road course in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York was slated for April 4-5 and is an important fundraiser for charity.
... Live horse racing without fans will continue at Aqueduct during New York’s ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.