It’s going to be different.
Even a bit bizarre.
But it’s going to be beautiful.
The 2020 Masters starts this week, and because of COVID-19, it is being played in November instead of its usual place in April. And who cares? It’s the Masters.
So what if the azaleas are not in bloom in November?
So what if the golf course might look slightly different in the fall than it would in the spring?
The Masters is powering on, and the riveting storylines that existed earlier this year remain the things to watch this week at Augusta National.
The one topic that will dominate the week is the fact that, because of coronavirus pandemic protocols, there will be no patrons allowed onto the grounds for the tournament.
No fans allowed has been the case at almost every PGA Tour event since it restarted its season in June, but Augusta National is going to the place where a lack of spectators is going to be felt most.
Those famous roars rattling around the tall pine trees on the golf course — particularly on the weekends — have become as much a fabric of the Masters as the green jacket, the azaleas and the pimento cheese sandwiches.
Those roars — sonic booms that tell players around the golf course what’s going on without them even having to look at a scoreboard — will be missing. And that’s going to hurt the atmosphere. The silence will be deafening.
“The fans and the roars, I honestly can’t imagine going there and not hearing those on the weekend,’’ ESPN analyst Curtis Strange said. “That is part of the entire week. You really, at times, don’t have to look at the scoreboard. I can’t imagine this weekend without that. I’m going to have to because it’s reality, but it’s going to be … it’s going to be really different.’’
Some players, like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, have conceded that the lack of buzz from the fans has made it difficult for them to focus at times.
“It’s going to make a big difference to all of us,” Woods said. “We just don’t have the same type of energy and the distractions. There at Augusta National, you just have all those roars that would go up if somebody did something somewhere, and then scoreboard-watching and trying to figure out what’s going on — there aren’t a lot of big leaderboards out there. So that will be very different.”
When stars like Jack Nicklaus and Woods made birdie or eagle somewhere on the course, you could be on the other side of the property and still know from where the roars were coming and their decibel level who they were for and whether they were eagle roars or birdie roars.
“As a player, you always knew where the roars were coming from and you could sort of sense who they are for,’’ ESPN analyst Andy North said. “Obviously that’s not going to be the case this week.’’
There’s a school of thought that the lack of those roars that can be equal parts intimidating and exhilarating might create an advantage for a younger, less-experienced player, should he be in contention on the back nine Sunday.
Much was made about the lessened pressure Collin Morikawa faced while winning the PGA Championship in August at Harding Park because there were no fans in attendance and thus, less buzz.
“There are a lot of guys that haven’t played there very much,’’ North said. “Is this going to negate some of the history that our veteran players have and some of the course knowledge that they have versus some of the younger guys that we have seen play so well this fall?
“I’ve played there a lot when there haven’t been tournament conditions, and it to me was always really weird. It seemed so strange not having grandstands and the look that you’re normally seeing in the tournament. It’s going to be different.’’
And it’s going to be beautiful.
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