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How rumors can spike hotel prices in Augusta for the Masters

March 17, 2020 GMT
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FILE - In this April 4, 2011, file photo, golf fans watch practice on the par three 16th hole during a practice round for the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. Augusta National decided Friday, March 13, 2020, to postpone the Masters because of the spread of the coronavirus. Club chairman Fred Ridley says he hopes postponing the event puts Augusta National in the best position to host the Masters and its other two events at some later date. Ridley did not say when it would be held. (Tim Dominick/The State via AP, File)
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FILE - In this April 4, 2011, file photo, golf fans watch practice on the par three 16th hole during a practice round for the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. Augusta National decided Friday, March 13, 2020, to postpone the Masters because of the spread of the coronavirus. Club chairman Fred Ridley says he hopes postponing the event puts Augusta National in the best position to host the Masters and its other two events at some later date. Ridley did not say when it would be held. (Tim Dominick/The State via AP, File)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The Masters was postponed, and it didn’t take long for speculation to begin on when it would be played.

Augusta National closes in mid-May for the summer. The grass effectively turns brown before it gets back into shape for the reopening for its members in October.

May seemed like a stretch, especially with the Centers for Disease and Prevention recommending no events for 50 or more people through at least May 10. That shifted attention to the fall, with reports out of Augusta focusing on the school system’s fall break the first full weekend of October.

Spring break in the Augusta area typically falls the same week as the Masters, mainly to allow residents to rent out their homes if they want to go on a holiday.

Evidence of the power of rumors and reports can be found at hotel websites.

Nearly all of the Hilton properties for the month of October are sold out. On the Marriott website, one popular week had a Fairfield Inn available for $883 a night — typical for April, not so much for the weeks leading to Halloween.

And then came a tweet from Marina Alex on the LPGA Tour, sharing news that the room she had booked had been canceled, with the hotel saying they were “sorry to see you go.”

“Actually ... I didn’t cancel my room YOU did,” Alex replied.

She had booked it for Oct. 5-12 — the fall break for schools is Oct. 9. Then again, that’s an open date on the LPGA Tour schedule, right before it is scheduled to leave for the fall version of its Asia swing.

That might be ideal for the ANA Inspiration at Rancho Mirage, California, the first major of the year that was postponed. If golf ever gets started again, it might not matter.

KOEPKA AND OLYMPICS

Brooks Koepka had conflicted feelings about competing for a gold medal in the Olympics. He talked about the crammed summer schedule. He also talked about the satisfaction of being an Olympian.

He was squarely on the fence. That was before golf shut down from the new coronavirus, with no PGA Tour events scheduled through May 17. Eight events have been canceled. Two majors have been postponed.

“This changes a lot of things now with what goes on with the Olympics,” Koepka said, conceding that he still wasn’t even sure — as with everyone else — if the Olympics would be played.

But he mainly was talking about the end of the season.

Koepka was out from October until February due to a knee injury he aggravated during a fall in South Korea. In five starts this season, he has two missed cuts, a withdrawal in South Korea and two finishes outside the top 40.

That puts him at No. 213 in the FedEx Cup.

“It makes it very difficult because of the start I’ve gotten off to,” Koepka said. “Let’s say we’re out six to eight weeks. I’m so far down in the FedEx Cup because of my play. And the PGA Tour is my job. I want to be right there at the end.”

Koepka said he wasn’t officially pulling out, like Dustin Johnson already has (before the cancellations). But it didn’t down very promising even if the Olympics are held.

And it probably won’t help Tiger Woods if he’s still interested.

According to a world ranking expert known only as “Nosferatu” on Twitter, the leading four Americans if no golf is played before the June 22 cutoff for the Olympics are Justin Thomas, Koepka, Webb Simpson and Xander Schauffele. They would be followed by Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay.

The Olympics are a long way off on the calendar, suddenly not so far off in terms of qualifying.

But there remains a lot of unknowns along the way.

LEFTOVERS

One day after PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced golf was shutting down for at least a month because of the new coronavirus, he was at work in a food kitchen.

Monahan was among players and The Players Championship staff serving meals at the Sulzbacher Center in downtown Jacksonville.

The food came from The Players Championship, which Monahan canceled after one round.

“We’ve prepared to have over 200,000 people here on property and won’t,” Monahan had said on Friday. “So one of the things that we’re quickly going to get to work on is how do you take all the food supplies that we have here and put them to good use for our community. And that’s something that we’re going to do immediately.”

Billy Horschel is an ambassador for the Feeding Northeast Florida, and was among loading food into the trucks at the TPC Sawgrass to take to the warehouse.

RENOVATIONS THAT WAIT

Among the four additional tournaments the PGA Tour canceled Tuesday was the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the only team event on the tour’s schedule.

The TPC Louisiana, a Pete Dye design that opened 16 years ago, recently was closed for six months during a $1.9 million renovation to dig up and re-sod the fairways, restore greens and bunkers, and improve drainage.

When the cancellation announcement was made, partially assembled stands, suites and VIP areas stood in limbo around the ninth and 18th greens.

“Given the situation in our city and around the world, we truly had no choice,” said Steve Worthy, CEO of the Fore!Kids Foundation, which runs the tournament. “We are confident we will bounce back in a big way in 2021.”

Meanwhile, the AT&T Byron Nelson also was on the list of cancellations. It was to be played for the final time at Trinity Forest in Dallas. That means the final winner at Trinity Forest will be Sung Kang.

DIVOTS

Renee Powell is this year’s recipient of the Donald Ross Award from the American Society of Golf Course Architects. Powell was the second black woman to play the LPGA Tour, the first to earn Class A PGA of America membership and was among the first women to be an honorary member of the R&A. ... The Friends of Golf and Golf Coaches Association of America says they will have three finalists and one winner for the Ben Hogan Award, using what it said was “ample data and results” from last year’s NCAA Championship through the summer, fall and early part of the year before NCAA sports were stopped because of the coronavirus.

STAT OF THE WEEK

The eight tournaments canceled by the PGA Tour because of the coronavirus had combined prize money of $73.8 million. That doesn’t include the Masters and PGA Championship, which were postponed.

FINAL WORD

“When we have situations like this, everyone can rely on sports to sort of take their mind off the tragedy at hand or the situation at hand in the world, and right now we don’t have that.” — Billy Horschel.