We are two weeks away from Thanksgiving and they’re just now getting around to playing the Masters golf tournament down in Augusta, Georgia.
A tradition unlike any other, they say, the Masters tradition in 2020 will be unlike any of the 83 Masters tournaments before it because for the first time it is being played in November, not the first Sunday in April, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. The autumn scene will look a little different than the spring azaleas that paint the famous Augusta National backdrop each year, but the early photos show us Augusta’s fall foliage is quite picturesque too.
— The Masters (@TheMasters) November 8, 2020
— The Masters (@TheMasters) November 9, 2020
Other things you’ll notice that are a break in Masters tradition:
There are no fans. The PGA Tour welcomed spectators back at last week’s Vivint Houston Open; the Masters, however, will not open its doors to outside guests. The call was made back in August. 2020 ticket lottery winners will get first dibs in 2021.
The pre-tournament fun got canceled. No Par 3 Contest for the family; no Drive, Chip and Putt for the youngsters aspiring to be on tour one day. At least the practice round gave us one of the wildest things that has ever happed on a golf course, ANY golf course.
— The Masters (@TheMasters) November 10, 2020
While the early week events were mostly canceled, the champions’ dinner tradition continued. Defending champion Tiger Woods hosted fellow past Masters winners for his fifth champions dinner at the clubhouse. Woods’ menu included sushi before steak and chicken fajitas with a Mexi-themed dessert trio. It’s better than his first champions dinner when he requested burgers, fries and shakes for the legends of golf.
Missing from Woods’ Tuesday dinner party was 2017 champion Sergio Garcia, who withdrew from the tournament after testing positive for COVID-19. There are no alternates, so Garcia’s positive test and another from golfer Joaquin Niemann put the field at 94 competitors in 2020. It is the first major championship without Garcia in 21 years.
Golfers will begin a round on the back nine for the time ever due to daylight concerns. To help beat the early sunset, groups will tee off on both sides in Thursday and Friday’s rounds to speed up play. For the half of the field going off No. 10, which includes Tiger Woods on Thursday, they’ll get one hole to settle down and then it is straight into Amen Corner, the difficult three-hole stretch that can define an entire round.
Also sunlight-related, Sunday’s final round will begin and conclude earlier than usual. It will get an earlier start at 10 a.m. and is scheduled to end by 3 p.m., making way for the first ever Masters/NFL Sunday doubleheader on CBS.
You can watch every swing through Masters.com’s IBM technology. The Masters is WAY out in front with its tournament coverage and this year there is new fancy technology that will allow you to tailor the way you consume the action. Get the Masters app or go to Masters.com for more info on all of the various ways to follow along. That sounded like an ad. It wasn’t. I’m just really excited.
As for TV coverage, ESPN will broadcast the first two rounds and then CBS will take over for the weekend. Golf will begin at 1 p.m. Thursday through Sunday then at 10 a.m. on Sunday like we discussed two paragraphs ago. Masters plus NFL. Big day.
Another football-golf crossover, ESPN College Gameday will be live from Augusta National before Saturday’s college football slate. Golf will be going on during Gameday’s 9 a.m. broadcast, so Augusta carved out a spot for the show overlooking the ninth hole on the par-3 course.
The green jacket presentation will be socially-distanced. Last year’s winner, Tiger Woods, will not place the green jacket upon this year’s champion due to COVID. Woods will instead pass the green jacket to the new champion with the same putter he used to tap in for the win in 2019, while the new champion will extend his winning putter to receive the jacket, and then slide into the arm sleeves himself. Though done for golfer safety, I should note that I completely made all of that up. Just making sure you’re paying attention. Moving on…
For projecting the cut purposes, you should know the 10-stroke rule got thrown out. In past Masters tournaments, anyone within 10 strokes of the lead through two rounds made the cut to advance to the weekend. Now only the top 50 players and ties will be invited back for Saturday and Sunday. The number has been 50 since 2013. The 10-stroke rule dates back to 1962.
For those interested in the betting favorites, oddsmakers think these five golfers stand the best chance to win the green jacket: Bryson DeChambeau (+750), Dustin Johnson (+800), John Rahm (+1000), Justin Thomas (+1200) and Rory McIlroy (+1200).
First round starts Thursday morning at 7 a.m. Here are your Round 1 tee times and pairings…
7:00 a.m. — Lucas Glover, Corey Conners, C.T. Pan
7:11 a.m. — Brandt Snedeker, Charles Howell III, Jazz Janewattananond
7:22 a.m. — Larry Mize, Andrew Landry, Lukas Michel
7:33 a.m. — Matt Kuchar, Lee Westwood, Kevin Na
7:44 a.m. — Xander Schauffele, Jason Kokrak, Henrik Stenson
7:55 a.m. — Charl Schwartzel, Jason Day, Abel Gallegos
8:06 a.m. — Vijay Singh, Lanto Griffin, Tyler Duncan
8:17 a.m. — Mike Weir, Rafael Cabrera Bello, Matt Wallace
11:05 a.m. — Sung Kang, Erik Van Rooyen
11:16 a.m. — Danny Willett, Rickie Fowler, John Augenstein
11:27 a.m. — Phil Mickelson, Abraham Ancer, Bernd Wiesberger
11:38 a.m. — Adam Scott, Collin Morikawa, Tyrrell Hatton
11:49 a.m. — Justin Thomas, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Brooks Koepka
12:00 p.m. — Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy
12:11 p.m. — Zach Johnson, Justin Rose, Cameron Champ
12:22 p.m. — Sungjae Im, Victor Perez, Brendon Todd
7:00 a.m. — Sandy Lyle, Jimmy Walker, Yuxin Lin
7:11 a.m. — Webb Simpson, Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama
7:22 a.m. — Kevin Kisner, Adam Hadwin, Scottie Scheffler
7:33 a.m. — Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Louis Oosthuizen
7:44 a.m. — Patrick Reed, Paul Casey, Tony Finau
7:55 a.m. — Tiger Woods, Shane Lowry, Andy Ogletree
8:06 a.m. — Jordan Spieth, Gary Woodland, Ian Poulter
8:17 a.m. — Graeme McDowell, Si Woo Kim, Nate Lashley
11:05 a.m. — Justin Harding, Shugo Imahira, Nick Taylor
11:16 a.m. — Chez Reavie, Sebastian Munoz, Ben An
11:27 a.m. — Bubba Watson, Matthew Wolff, Tommy Fleetwood
11:38 a.m. — Francesco Molinari, Billy Horschel, Cameron Smith
11:49 a.m. — Bernhard Langer, J.T. Poston, Christiaan Bezuidenhout
12:00 p.m. — Fred Couples, Max Homa, Dylan Frittelli
12:11 p.m. — Jose Maria Olazabal, Andrew Putnam, James Sugrue
It’s almost here.
— The Masters (@TheMasters) November 8, 2020