For Aging Masters champions, Pandemic Can't Silence Augusta & # 39; s Call

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Indeed, the pandemic barely seemed to rattle most of the winners, many of whom considered Augusta's golf and traditions too great to ignore, even in 2020. Sixteen past champions play this week and while Player and Jack Nicklaus are not, they kicked off the tournament with a ceremonial tee-shot around daybreak on Thursday. Nicklaus and his wife, Barbara, tested positive for the corona virus in March.

"I just played three months in a row, so why not come here?" asked Bernhard Langer, who turned 63 in August and won in 1985 and 1993. “I can take social distance. I don't have to hug anyone or anything or do high-fives. "

Others who took part feared they wouldn't make it due to travel restrictions.

" It seemed very difficult as I was stranded in Scotland for seven months, eight months, "said Sandy Lyle, the champion of 1988. But there he was Monday at sunset, practicing putts, hoping to put together enough low scores to make the Masters cut, this year in the low 50s, for the first time since 2014.

"We're still getting through this," added Lyle, 62, of the pandemic. "We should be very happy that we now even play golf for prize money."

So looking around Augusta National this week was still to spot winners, an exercise made easier than usual because of this year's ban on spectators. 1992 winner Fred Couples and Tiger Woods practiced together, as did Langer and Lyle. A few minutes after Vijay Singh, the 2000 champion, started hitting # 1 on Tuesday morning, Patrick Reed, who won 18 years after Singh, started a round of the nearby # 10.

More came for it. Champions Dinner, a closed-door rite of the tournament for past winners and the club president.

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