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Masters postponed due to coronavirus, with hope of holding it at a later date

The 16th green at Augusta National as seen during Masters week in 2011.TIM DOMINICK/Associated Press/file

Augusta National on Friday postponed the Masters, another massive hit to the spring sports calendar by the coronaivirus that already is responsible for the loss of March Madness and the delay of baseball’s Opening Day.

So much for that annual rite of spring and the first week in April devoted to the brilliance of dogwoods and azaleas, and Tiger Woods chasing another green jacket.

“Unfortunately, the ever-increasing risks associated with the widespread coronavirus have led us to a decision that undoubtedly will be disappointing to many, although I am confident is appropriate under these unique circumstances," Masters chairman Fred Ridley said in a statement.

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The Masters had been scheduled for April 9-12.

Ridley said he hoped the decision puts Augusta National in the best position to host the Masters and its two other amateur events “at some later date.”

He did not indicate when the Masters could be played. The private club traditionally closes in May and does not open for its members until October.

The decision comes 12 hours after PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan canceled four tournaments, starting with the final three rounds of The Players Championship and its $15 million purse.

Players already were bracing for the Masters to be canceled as they left TPC Sawgrass Friday morning. The virus has a grip on the sporting world, and golf’s decision to cancel — after first wanting to try to play The Players Championship without fans — was inevitable.

“The world is not coming to an end, but it’s a little reality check,” Kevin Na said. “Golf is not that big of a deal when you look around at what’s going on in the world. I know Masters is being postponed. I think they’re doing the right thing, and I look forward to hopefully playing the Masters later this year.”

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For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, with the vast majority recovering in about two weeks.

The NBA and NHL have suspended their seasons indefinitely. Major League Baseball has postponed the start of its season, and one of the biggest events canceled was the NCAA basketball tournament — March Madness — that captivates the country for three weeks. The championship game is the Monday night before the Masters.

Colleges are canceling spring sports.

The Masters has finished in April every year since 1935 — the first tournament was in late March — except when it was canceled from 1943-45 because of World War II.

The club also hosts the Augusta National Women’s Amateur that ends on the Saturday before the Masters, and Sunday is reserved for the Drive, Chip, and Putt Finals for youngsters who qualify all year throughout the country.

No other golf tournament gets better ratings than the Masters, the only major held on the same course every year. Ticket prices are among the cheapest for major sporting events — $375 this year for a Thursday-Sunday badge — though the club gets much of its non-broadcast revenue from its merchandise shops. It does not have an online store.

The next major is scheduled to be the PGA Championship in San Francisco May 14-17, and the PGA of America already is contemplating scenarios if it’s not safe to play.

NASCAR, IndyCar hit brakes

NASCAR and IndyCar reversed course and pulled the plug on racing this weekend, with IndyCar also suspending its season through the end of April.

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NASCAR called off Sunday's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and next weekend's events at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Both events were already scheduled to be run without spectators.

IndyCar was scheduled to open its season Sunday on the streets of downtown St. Petersburg without fans. Formula One also canceled its season opening race in Australia, leaving the first full weekend of global motorsports without a major event.

Soccer follows suit

All Champions League and Europa League games were postponed by UEFA because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Two Champions League games — Barcelona vs. Napoli, and Bayern Munich vs. Chelsea — had been planned for Wednesday. But there are travel restrictions between Spain and Italy, and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi has tested positive for the virus.

Condensed NCAA tourney discussed

As it became apparent the NCAA basketball tournaments could not be held over three weeks because of concerns about the coronavirus, organizers scrambled to devise a plan for a 16-team event to salvage the postseason in one long weekend.

The idea was to have the selection committee choose the top 16 teams in the country, regardless of conference, to participate. The first three rounds would have been played from Thursday to Saturday, with a championship game Monday night.

Extra eligibility granted

An NCAA committee granted another year of eligibility to scores of college athletes whose seasons were abruptly cut short by concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Division 1 Council Coordinator Committee announced that its “leadership agreed that eligibility relief is appropriate for all Division 1 student-athletes who participated in spring sports,” a day after the NCAA canceled all winter and spring championship athletic events.

The NCAA, according to reports, will also discuss whether to extend the measure to winter-sport athletes, who were nearing their postseason, if not already there.

Spring sports include baseball, golf, lacrosse, softball, tennis and outdoor track and field, among others. Those teams had only played a fraction of their seasons.