Columnist image
Bob Weeks

TSN Senior Reporter


The Masters is often regarded as the start of the golf season. This year, it almost serves as a finale.

Moving from April to November is certainly the biggest change that’s come to the beloved major, but it’s triggered many other alterations as well. Here’s a look at what’s different this time around.

How the course will play

One of the biggest questions that doesn’t yet have an answer is how Augusta National will play in the fall compared to the spring.

Those who have had the chance to tee it up there in November say the layout is generally wetter, meaning it will play longer and slower.

But no one has played the course at this time under tournament conditions. The folks who run the Masters seem to have a way to get the course to play as they want, regardless of Mother Nature.

Don’t forget that Augusta National is the birthplace of the SubAir system, a large under-the-green fan that can draw the moisture out and make the putting surfaces speedy – even after a lengthy rainstorm.

Temperatures are expected to be in the high teens and into the low 20s during tournament week, so the distance the ball travels shouldn’t be significant.

Overall, there shouldn’t be much difference between the April Masters and the November edition.

No Patrons

One of the most significant differences will be the lack of patrons. This tournament, perhaps more than any other, can be defined by the cheers heard from various parts of the course, especially on Sunday.

Not only do the cheers create a unique atmosphere, they serve to let players know what’s going on elsewhere on the course.

“There at Augusta National you just have all those roars that would go up if somebody did something somewhere,” said Tiger Woods, who will defend the title for the fifth time. “So, 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.”

The quiet could also affect the golfers from an energy standpoint. Getting pumped up and feeding off the noise is important for many players. This year, they’ll have to do it on their own.

No Par 3 contest

The Par 3 contest at the Masters began in 1960 as a way to have a little fun before the seriousness of the real tournament began.

Participants, as well as past champions, usually tee it up on Wednesday afternoon on a nine-hole course that is manicured as well as the big course.

In recent years, it’s also become standard to have a spouse, parent, child or family member serve as caddie. It was standard to see little kids, kitted out in the white jumpsuits the caddies wear, perhaps carrying a putter or a golf ball.

There are also times when those a little older get to take a swing, such as Jack Nicklaus’ grandson, who used his try to make a hole-in-one.

But the Par 3 is played before a massive gallery, which is fun. Without them, it wouldn’t have been the same.

“We know that experience could not have been replicated without guests and patrons at Augusta National,” said Fred Ridley, Augusta National’s chairman, in announcing the cancellation.

Two-tee start

Most weeks on the PGA Tour, a two-tee start is usual but not at The Masters.

There, players generally go off the first tee in threesomes for the first two rounds.
There have been two-tee starts in the past at Augusta National. In fact, last year’s final round utilized one when inclement weather was forecast, and tee times were moved up.

This time golfers will go off one and 10 for the first two rounds because of the limited daylight. It’s the only way to get the 96 golfers through before dark.

Starting on 10 means reaching the difficult stretch of Amen Corner early in the round and playing what are considered the two tougher par 5s, the second and eighth, on the back nine.

Souvenir sales

For those lucky enough to attend the Masters, getting a souvenir is a must. In fact, many patrons spend a small fortune at the shops on the grounds of Augusta National.

It’s a must because Masters souvenirs aren’t sold online. You can only get gear emblazoned with the famed logo at the tournament.

This year, without any attendees, those shops won’t be open and so shirts, hats, mugs and dog collars will be available online for the first time.

But to get access to the store you need to be a badge holder. Augusta National has set up a virtual store called the Masters Patron Shop for those lucky folks, but it does have some stipulations. Each person may only make two total transactions and the club has reserved the right to limit product quantities.

Still, a souvenir from this year’s Masters may be a real treasure.