Augusta Nationwide Golf Membership opened to its membership on Monday, an annual fall prevalence that usually happens with out a lot fanfare. It’s a personal membership, in spite of everything. Different sports activities are in full music, notably soccer. Usually, the annual Masters event remains to be six months away, the golf calendar crammed with a bunch of sleepy occasions this time of 12 months.
Nothing, in fact, is regular about 2020. Augusta Nationwide was closed as typical for the summer season, but it surely shut down greater than two months early due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Masters Event was misplaced within the bedlam, only a month earlier than its scheduled begin, and ultimately was postponed to November.
That appeared way back.
Now we’re a month from the primary fall Masters, and the potential for a splendidly totally different have a look at a revered, historic place within the sport that can see Tiger Woods try and defend his 2019 title 19 months in a while the hallowed Georgia grounds that shall be with out spectators.
Right here is how issues stand with one other 4 weeks to go till the third main championship of the 2020 trio:
Some gorgeous images surfaced just lately on Eureka Earth, which took aerial pictures of Augusta Nationwide in late September. Apart from the greens, the complete place was brown. Many fairway areas gave the impression to be shaved naked. Bunkers had liners, however not all had sand.
And that is, effectively, par for the course.
The fairways and tough at Augusta Nationwide have Bermuda grass, the predominant grass that usually prospers within the heat, summer season months. Because the membership is closing in late Could, the Bermuda pushes out the rye grass overseed. It’s what you’ll anticipate of most programs within the South.
However as a result of Augusta Nationwide is closed in the summertime, there is no such thing as a want to take care of the Bermuda. The greens — that are bent grass — are saved in high situation, however the remainder of the course isn’t, within the conventional sense, until there’s some type of work being performed or modifications made.
Therefore the images.
However, magically, some 10 days later, those self same images confirmed a inexperienced golf course.
Every September, Augusta Nationwide places down a rye overseed that’s meant to maintain the grass inexperienced by way of the autumn and winter months. And it is how the course seems in April for the Masters.
With much less time to be prepared for a November Masters, it is going to be fascinating to see how Augusta Nationwide performs. Will the turf probably be thinner than typical? Will it play sooner? Might there be cooler mornings? All of that is to be found.
The sector is ready at 96 gamers and has been for the reason that postponed event dates have been introduced in April. Earlier than play was halted by the pandemic, there have been simply two remaining methods to qualify for the Masters for these not in any other case invited: win the Gamers Championship, Valspar Championship, WGC-Dell Match Play or Valero Texas Open; or be among the many high 50 on the planet on the Monday after the Match Play.
The Masters then went with the latest printed high 50 within the Official World Rating. 4 gamers certified who weren’t in any other case exempt: then-No. 44 Collin Morikawa, No. 45 Scottie Scheffler and No. 47 Christiaan Bezuidenhout are making their Masters debuts. Graeme McDowell additionally snuck into the highest 50 and can play his first Masters since 2016.
The (mini) controversy
Daniel Berger was effectively exterior of the highest 50 on the planet when golf was halted after the primary spherical of the Gamers Championship. He gained the primary event again, the Charles Schwab Problem in June, and he has added six top-25 finishes since to maneuver as much as No. 12 on the planet.
Actually Berger has a case to be within the Masters discipline, given his world rating. So do Viktor Hovland and Harris English. Each have moved into the highest 50. However barring some last-minute change, they will not be at Augusta Nationwide.
Think about the uproar if Morikawa had not snuck into the highest 50 within the spring? He has since gained the PGA Championship, which by itself wouldn’t have certified him for this distinctive Masters as a result of the August event was after the Masters cutoff.
These nonetheless making an attempt to qualify for the 2020 Masters missed out on 4 potential successful prospects and the power to maneuver into the highest 50.
However Augusta’s stance is stable: Qualification for the 2020 Masters resulted in March. Something that occurred after that applies to the 2021 Masters, which shall be simply 5 months later.
The sector dimension is at all times a problem with the Masters. It hardly ever goes over 100 gamers. Final 12 months, it was 87. With far much less daylight within the fall, getting the sphere by way of 18 holes every day is a matter that possible led to a call to not add any extra gamers.
The tee instances
A difficulty not like some other Masters. As an alternative of daylight saving time, the Masters will function on customary time. Meaning roughly two hours much less daylight per day. Will probably be darkish round 5:30 p.m. ET. Meaning, probably, the necessity for a two-tee begin on Thursday and Friday.
And having to start out the primary spherical of the Masters on the tenth tee and dealing with Amen Nook early within the morning isn’t a really perfect state of affairs.
Might everybody play off the primary tee?
It is potential, however it might be extraordinarily tight. Final 12 months, the ultimate tee time was at 2 p.m. To get in earlier than darkness, the final time can actually be no later than about 12:30 p.m., when you think about threesomes are going to take 5 hours.
However … when you began at 7 a.m. and went in 11-minute intervals, you possibly can have 32 tee instances of three gamers every that run by way of 12:39 p.m. Delays of any variety would imply the final teams will not end. However Augusta Nationwide is likely to be prepared to take that likelihood.
If it avoids a one-tee begin, the Masters would wish to go to a two-tee begin with a morning and afternoon wave. You’d have eight teams of three gamers tee off the primary and tenth tees within the morning, after which one other wave of the identical within the afternoon.
After 36 holes, there shall be a lower to the highest 50 and ties, which ought to enable for regular one-tee begin in twos for the third spherical. However as a result of CBS’ NFL dedication on Sunday, the fourth spherical is scheduled to finish by roughly 2:30 p.m ET, permitting time for a sudden-death playoff if vital. That can once more imply beginning gamers off each tees.
The defending champion
Woods may have yet one more begin earlier than the Masters, as he has entered subsequent week’s Zozo Championship at Sherwood Nation Membership. It’s the event he gained a 12 months in the past — his 82nd PGA Tour title, tying Sam Snead for essentially the most — when it was performed in Japan.
How Woods will have a look at Sherwood in Southern California is anyone’s guess, but when previous outcomes are an indicator, then there shouldn’t be a lot in the way in which of expectations for Woods.
He missed the lower on the U.S. Open final month, which means that in an 11-week stretch between the BMW Championship in August and the Masters, Woods may have performed simply six aggressive rounds.
It is the least he has performed resulting in a Masters since he took 9 weeks off earlier than the 2015 event, the place he tied for seventeenth. In 2010, Woods did not play all 12 months till the Masters and tied for fourth.
Resulting in his 2019 victory, Woods performed two weeks earlier on the Match Play and a complete of 4 instances in eight weeks earlier than the Masters.
After his victory on the Zozo a 12 months in the past, Woods was ranked sixth on the planet, which is the place he ended 2019. He has dropped to twenty sixth.
How Bryson DeChambeau performs Augusta Nationwide must be fascinating to look at. He is clearly not keen on navigating his manner across the course. The U.S. Open champion mentioned he is been engaged on placing a driver with a 48-inch shaft into play particularly for the Masters. Many questioned how his newfound lengthy sport that included some 50 kilos of weight achieve would fare on a tough course. Properly, DeChambeau was the one participant below par at Winged Foot, and he gained by 6.
The losses because of the pandemic
The Augusta Nationwide Ladies’s Beginner was canceled, as was the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship. Each of these pre-tournament staples performed the weekend earlier than must wait till April.
What’s unclear is whether or not Woods will have the ability to host a Champions Dinner within the clubhouse, on the patio — or in any respect. Thus far, no phrase. Similar for the annual Par 3 Contest, which whether it is performed would undoubtedly be lacking all the spouses, children and grandkids who frequent the occasion.
Augusta Nationwide’s time period for the followers or spectators who attend the event will not be of a lot use this 12 months — as there will not be any. That is an enormous hit to the membership’s backside line (for the primary time, merchandise shall be made accessible for a short while on-line to contracted ticket holders), regardless of its monumental sources.
And it is an enormous blow to the event that partially has turn into well-known worldwide for the cheers and groans that echo among the many enormous pine bushes, making for one in all sports activities’ nice spectacles.
This time, we’ll hear the echo of membership assembly ball, birds chirping and possibly a smattering of applause from volunteers or membership members who’re permitted onto the course.
However these ear-shattering roars shall be lacking. And they’ll even be missed.
Woods, who many instances has commented on how the assist of the spectators performed such an necessary function in his victory in 2019, unknowingly foreshadowed what this 12 months would possibly seem like manner earlier than anybody may think about what the world would endure.
As he exited the clubhouse on that Sunday evening in April after his victory, the solar had but to utterly drop beneath the clouds, a far totally different setting from what the champion would encounter within the late-night darkness.
“I’ve by no means seen the golf course empty like that,” Woods mentioned. “I used to be on the market with [children] Sam and Charlie, and I mentioned, ‘That is what Augusta Nationwide is like.’ You see the great thing about it. The rolling hills. The proper grass. It was immaculate.
“It is so totally different when no person is on the market. That is after they began to grasp how stunning the place is.”
It certain is, and maybe this distinctive Masters will supply the chance to understand that much more.