Masters 2020: What does a fall tournament mean for Augusta National?

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Tiger Woods claimed his fifth Green Jacket and took a 15th major title last year Date: November 12-15 Location: Augusta National Coverage: Radio and text commentary online with in-play clips. Daily Highlights on BBC Two – full details here

In a year like no other, we're ready for a Masters like never before.

Augusta National moved from its traditional site in April due to the coronavirus pandemic and will host the last major of this calendar year in unprecedented circumstances.

The field is the same as it would have been when the tournament was canceled in March, but the picture is very different.

Fall hues have replaced blooming spring hues and the roar of the customers has been silenced, with no onlookers allowed on the property.

But what does organizing the event in November mean for the players, the court and the local community?

& # 39; Locals call it a second Christmas & # 39;

Nineteen months have passed since Tiger Woods slipped on a fifth Green Jacket, but the absence of golf's most iconic major and his patrons was felt outside Magnolia Lane.

"This is a huge blow," explains sports writer Scott Michaux. , formerly of the Augusta Chronicle. "It's a huge economic driver for the community in so many different areas."

The tournament features an annual windfall that is reportedly worth $ 100 million to the Augusta economy. More than 200,000 people pass through the city during Masters Week, doubling the population.

Hotels raise their rates to sometimes six times the average price, locals go out of town for a week to rent out their properties to customers, and some nearby golf clubs sell tee times for $ 1,000.

"River Club, Champions Retreat, Forest Hills, Akin GC, Palmetto GC in South Carolina, they are making a huge amount of money that week, not just for the golf, but some grooming and organize evening social events and rent out their clubhouse, says Michaux.

"Then you have the people who rent out their homes count on that income every year – home tenants, caterers, they call the masters either a second Christmas or the 13th month of the economic year, that's how big it is for the community.

"Any small industry you think of is affected by this in Augusta. You can't replace it if you don't have it for a season. Augusta National is fine, they can go without fans for years and still in top shape economically, but the community is being hurt badly. "

The track will be super soft, so Bryson carries it 320,330 yards is a huge advantage

Mike Schy Bryson DeChambeau & # 39; s coach

The initial disappointment of a delayed Masters was offset by optimism when it was announced in April that the tournament would be moved to November, with patrons.

Schools in the area schedule their spring break to coincide with Masters week so families can rent out their homes or students can work – doing everything from garbage collection at the Augusta National Golf Club to work in merchandise or assist with food outlets.

Following the postponement, those schools moved the fall break, which usually takes place in late October, back to November to marry the late Masters. Then the news came that it wouldn't be possible to admit fans.

"People thought they were going to get this bump in the fall instead of the spring," Michaux adds. "Now the kids are leaving, but there will be no Masters they can work on."

Playing in the hands of the big hitters?

Can DeChambeau outperform Augusta in the same way he did Winged Foot to win the US Open in September?

Augusta National ground crews are known for meticulous preparation and the site is bound to look impeccable – every blade of grass cut and stained to perfection.

The greens must be in pristine condition. All 18 have a subair system that can extract moisture, enjoying their own microclimate that can be adjusted depending on the time of year or whether the bentgrass setting surface is in the shade or in the sun.

The club says that, with Augusta closed from mid-May to mid-October to prepare it for members in the fall, the rearranged Masters have not materially changed their turf preparations.

the consensus is that the course will play longer in November than in April due to cooler conditions and "stickier" fairways.

The reason for this, Michaux explains, is agronomy. The fairways have a base of Bermuda grass which is scalped in September and seeded with ryegrass.

"The difference is that it will be less mature than it was in April," said Michaux, who will be one of 100 media personnel on site. "They may not be able to cut it as low as they usually do on the fairways."

Add to that the potential for stronger, changing winds and rain, with possible thunder. prediction on Thursday, and it could play into the hands of the field's bigger hitters.

That will sting the ears of people like Bryson DeChambeau, who overcame the notoriously difficult Winged Foot to win his first major at the US Open in September and recently posted an image of his launch monitor with a propulsion that flew 403 meters in the air.

The American's coach, Mike Schy, says a "soft" Augusta National would benefit his charge, which experienced similar conditions when he played the track in December.

"If you look at Matthew Wolff, second at the US Open, he hit it pretty far, but the fairways were hard and fast, while Bryson was wearing it 50 yards. past him, ”Schy told BBC Sport.

"Considering this week there may be a little bit of cold weather, rain, thunderstorms coming up, the course is going to be super soft. So wearing Bryson 320,330 yards is a huge advantage."

What will the track look like?

Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau played a practice round together on Monday

The absence of customers means that places where crowds normally gather, such as on the side from the 16th and around many of the greens will look different, but the course will look different. also play differently without spectators.

"It's not just the fact that Augusta customers are incredible and it's awe-inspiring and intimidating in some ways," says Schy. "But to have nobody there and get a ball rolling through something as planned is pretty cool. It makes that golf course much bigger."

It has been suggested that DeChambeau does that to his advantage. can use by going over the pines to the left of the dog-leg par-five 13th to reach the 14th fairway, giving you a better angle in the green.

"I think it's doable because there's no one to block the ball and end in a bad spot," explains Schy.

"It'll be interesting when that's available. I'm not sure what the carrying distance to that fairway is, if the ball can roll through that, that's definitely in play."

Ground crews often make subtle adjustments to the location and time of year means a two-tee start is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, while the final round is scheduled for Sunday around 7:30 pm GMT will end, in part to tie in with the American football broadcasts from the US rights holders.

"We're going to a different golf course, a different kind of Masters – it will be quiet, you will be able to see things you don't normally see," Michaux added. .

The Eureka Earth team took these images 10 days apart to show how the pitch at Augusta National was progressing. The photo on the left, showing the 15th green and par-three 16th, was taken on September 25, 50 days before the start of the Masters

And what one about the azaleas…?

According to Golf.com, external-link about 350 species of trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses grow in Augusta, the former home of Fruitland Nurseries, so something will bloom this week amid the towering pines, even as the traditional azaleas have passed their prime.

Augusta says the club's team has instead decided to use "nandina, pampas, camellias and other plants that fortify the grounds in the fall ".

That being said, Michaux says he still has & # 39; Encore & # 39; azaleas in bloom in his backyard in Georgia. These are different from the ones normally spotted at the Masters, but don't put anything beyond Augusta National.

The azaleas will be on display in five months when the Masters return to their usual April slot, and Michaux says everyone has crossed fingers that there will be customers too to be. ]

"Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley said you shouldn't throw the plans away because we may need them again in April," Michaux says.

"There is a lot of concern. I would say it's 50/50 at best. If we're in the same situation, I think they'll find a way to fix it. do, at least to a limited extent. "

Azaleas have been replaced by fall leaves, but Augusta remains just as majestic

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