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Masters may be last chance for fans to see golf in person

Future Masters Tournament dates

Now it comes down to the Masters to determine if any of golf’s majors will have fans this year. The tournament was rescheduled from April to Nov. 9-15 with no decision yet regarding fans being allowed inside Augusta National Golf Club.

A week before the PGA Championship begins without spectators, the U.S. Open announced Wednesday it would not have fans Sept. 17-20 at Winged Foot in New York because of health and safety concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We will miss the excitement of the fans and what their presence brings to the championship,” said Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA.

This already was shaping up to be a different U.S. Open.

It has been scheduled to end on Father’s Day every year since 1975, and that was disrupted by the pandemic. The U.S. Open moved from June 18-21 to the third week in September as the golf schedule was entirely reconfigured to account for a three-month shutdown.

Then, the U.S. Open had to ditch its identity as the most “open” major championship because it was neither safe nor practical to hold 18-hole and 36-hole qualifiers. Instead, the USGA crafted an all-exempt list that tried to reflect the field it normally gets.

And now the course will be missing the noise, just like the rest of golf.

Fans will be watching on NBC, which assumed the TV rights from Fox in an agreement earlier this summer.

The British Open was canceled in April.

Augusta National is still contemplating what it can accommodate at its private club.

Meanwhile, the PGA Championship starts Aug. 9 at Harding Park in San Francisco, the first major without fans.

The PGA Tour returned June 11 without fans and has played every week. The season-ending Tour Championship will be played without fans at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club on Sept. 4-7.

The next domestic tournament that could have spectators is Oct. 1-4 in Mississippi for the Sanderson Farms Championship.

“We’re starting to get used to it,” former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson said. “But I think next week will feel unusual again, being a major, when there’s tens of thousands lining the fairways 10 rows deep. We’re used to that, every major being sold out long in advance.”