Tagged in: january

Masters Tournament delays ticketing process for 2021

The Masters Tournament has delayed its ticketing process for the 2021 championship as it seeks a way to let some spectators to return for the first major of the year.

Dustin Johnson won the 2020 Masters, which was postponed from April to November because of the coronavirus pandemic, before just a smattering of Augusta National members, as the tournament had made the decision to play without spectators.

With just 100 days until the first round of the 2021 Masters arranged for April 8, the club has to make decisions quickly.

“As planning continues on how to stage the 2021 Masters Tournament safely and responsibly, we would like to inform you that Augusta National is delaying the ticket process for Patron Series Badges, which traditionally begins Jan. 1,” the club said in an email to ticket holders.

“Our intention is to communicate our decisions for the 2021 Masters to all patrons of record by the end of January. No further action is needed with your account at this time.”

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Patron Series Badges are good for the four tournament rounds only and do not include practice rounds. The cost of a badge for 2020 was to be $375, and when the Masters announced in August that it would play in November without spectators, it offered to defer those badges to 2021.

Practice rounds are another matter. Those tickets are distributed for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday via a lottery conducted the previous spring. Those tickets were also deferred to 2021.

Because all of these tickets and badges have been pre-sold, Augusta National Golf Club has a difficult problem in figuring out how to proceed with presumably a smaller number of spectators permitted on site. In the email, the club thanked its patrons for “continued patience” as it looks to communicate a definitive answer.

Crowd sizes are not revealed, but it is generally believed that around 30,000 series badges are sold.

Whittling that number to even half would require some ingenuity, possibly allowing admittance for a limited number of days or again deferring attendance a year.

Masters chairman Fred Ridley said in November that he hopes the “tournament in April will be more normal than it is now,” but offered no assurances that it will be any different, given the current uncertainty with the pandemic.

“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,” Ridley said on Nov 11. “I think the vaccine — I don’t want to get into medical prognostications — but just logically as a lay person, 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.”

In November, the Masters required all who would be on the grounds to produce a negative COVID-19 test before being admitted. It administered rapid-response tests through a local pharmacy. But those were administered to a relatively small number of people, perhaps fewer than 2,000.

To have significant numbers of spectators who have to undergo testing would require a huge effort, although Augusta National has the financial resources — plus acres upon acres of parking facilities — to make it possible.

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Boston Celtics’ Kemba Walker out until January after stem cell injection in knee

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge stated Tuesday that the upcoming NBA season will indicate how much of a long-term problem Kemba Walker’s left knee will be moving forward.

“I think this year will tell us a lot more,” Ainge said Tuesday morning of Walker, who the team informed will be out until at least January after he was given a stem cell injection and put on a 12-week strengthening program after last season ended.

“He saw some specialists over the last six or eight weeks, and they all came to the same conclusion, and I think that gave Kemba a great peace of mind as he went to different, really good doctors in our country and got the same opinions. He’s on a program, and he seems to be in a very good, happy spot.”

Ainge said the anticipation from those meetings was that surgery would not be necessary.

After the Celtics signed Walker as a free agent to a four-year max contract in the summer of 2019 to replace Kyrie Irving, he spent the latter portions of the regular season dealing with ongoing soreness in his left knee — particularly after the All-Star break — before the season was suspended March 11.

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Then, once teams resumed on-court work in late June ahead of the NBA restarting its season in late July, Walker had another setback with his knee, and was put on a minutes restriction both during the weeks leading up to the restart and throughout the seeding games inside the league’s bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Walker looked very good versus the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs, but he struggled as the Celtics progressed throughout the postseason — particularly after taking a hard fall during the second round versus the Toronto Raptors when he appeared to tweak the knee.

Ainge stated it was possible Boston rushed Walker back too quickly for the bubble — a touchy subject in Boston, given the history surrounding Isaiah Thomas after his hip issues following Boston’s run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2017 — before almost immediately walking back his own statement.

But just when Walker’s season will start — and when he will be a full participant for the Celtics — remains very much up in the air. The Celtics said in their statement that Walker’s game-availability status will be updated in the first week of January, which is roughly when his 12-week strengthening program should end.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Walker is going to start playing 30-plus minutes a game. Instead, the expectation is that Walker will slowly be ramped up over time, in a similar fashion to the restart in Orlando.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Walker’s return was affected in part by the fact that the NBA season is getting started sooner than everyone had anticipated.

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