There’s snow on the ground here in Colorado. And it’s Masters Week.
Now, it’s certainly not unusual for snow to be on the ground here for Masters Week . . . in fact, it’s not unusual for snow to be on the ground for a fair part of the country during Masters Week. But it’s usually accompanied with the promise of springtime, warmer temperatures, and the resumption of golf for a large segment of the population.
But this is 2020, in which the country – hell, the world – has been laid siege to a deadly virus, social unrest, and political strife so bitter that Orwell would have a difficulty in describing it. Now, the snow here is a reminder that the season is over for us, and unless one chooses to risk a trip to a COVID-19 hot spot (or still believes that the virus is a “hoax”), his clubs are reluctantly going into storage until the snow melts or a vaccine is widely available.
So watching The Masters this year will certainly be different – The (Mostly) Great White Fathers who run the tournament are capable of making many seemingly Herculean horticultural tasks happen (I recall going to a Monday practice round with my old friend Chet in 2016, and noticed that the azaleas in back of 13 green were well past peak. “They’ll take care of that, don’t worry,” Chet remarked dismissively. By open round Thursday, they had either magically recovered or had been replaced), but try as they might, they can never totally conquer Mother Nature (try as they might). I’m surmising there will be a different look to Augusta National – it will be beautiful, for sure, as there will likely be enough foliage from deciduous trees (either native or freshly transplanted) to give the course an autumnal feel “unlike any other,” as Jim Nantz might say. And with the shift back to Standard Time and shorter days, I’m surmising that will contribute to the overall look and feel of the course.
It may play a bit differently, as well. While the temperatures may be spring-like, the fall tends to be wet in the South, which may lengthen the course somewhat (and give pre-tournament favorite Bryson DeChambeau even more of an advantage). Different grasses have been planted in the fairway, first cut and second cut (there is no “rough” at Augusta, just as there are no pin placements – they are “hole locations” – or no spectators – they are “patrons”), which will likely force some players to rethink club selection and how the ball will react.
There will be no Drive, Chip, and Putt competition for junior golfers this year. And no Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship, the inaugural of which last year produced a finish nearly on a par with that of Tiger Woods.
But it’s the no spectators – excuse me, no patrons – aspect that will likely be missed by both those of us watching and by the players. The Open Championship and The Masters traditionally feature the most knowledgeable fans in all of golf, in which great shots are loudly appreciated. And at Augusta, those cheers and shouts echo through the pines. At the aforementioned practice round, Chet and I stood on the 9th green and heard a loud roar from the 16th. Apparently, Rory McIlroy made a hole in one – mind you, during a Monday practice round. I’ve heard reactions to touchdowns scored at an NFL or major college football games that were not as noisy.
But again, it’s 2020, and we will take what we can get. And hope that by next spring, when The Masters has returned to its usual second week in April spot, things have calmed down, and we can look forward to another season of golf, the promise of spring, and a more certain future.