The Masters is outperforming any sporting event. From the prominent green coat ceremony to the everyday paint on sewer covers, every detail of the tournament is coordinated and committed to a familiar presentation. This is how the youngest of the great men's golf championships gained such rapid brand strength and popularity.
Augusta National is a powerful club full of powerful people, but the coronavirus pandemic had little respect for its traditions and certainly not for the tournament. scheme. The watches and calendars were all reset in March when golf and the rest of the sports world were put on hold. A plan has been drawn up for a rescheduled Masters in November, but like so much in 2020 it will be very different from the Masters we expect to see in April every year.
No patrons, no roars
The most striking difference in the Masters 2020 is the quiet terrain with no spectators during the week. It has been a norm in golf and other sports for months, but the Masters have a special relationship with its live audience, whose members are & # 39; patrons & # 39; are called, according to club tradition.
An Augusta National job with no clients looks strange, but less gallery traffic is expected to open up different camera angles that TV viewers don't normally see. Quantifying an audience's impact on a golf tournament is a challenge, especially on the nine holes, where Augusta's famous roar provided the soundtrack to the Masters' most memorable finishes.
"The crowds are so big there that you try to just get involved in playing your game and not pay so much attention to the crowds," said Tommy Aaron, who won in 1973. "But they are there. , and if it goes well, they can give you a boost. "
" And if it goes bad, "he added," it may appear to be magnified. "
Earlier this summer, Tiger Woods said players were "making more birdies" during spectator-less PGA tournaments because of "not having to deal with the amount of distraction" created by the crowds. That could bring a big advantage and lower scores at the 2019 Masters, where crowds swarmed around the final group of Woods, Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau. Molinari & # 39; s tenuous hold on the lead disappeared as the round went on, and there was even some cheer in Amen Corner as his tee shot at 12 entered Rae & # 39; s Creek.
Cheering Bad Shots is verboten at the Masters and is described as "Most Disturbing" in a printed note from Bobby Jones, one of the founders, at the front of the Masters Spectator Guide. This year, Augusta National doesn't have to enforce it.
Fewer azaleas, more fall foliage
The November tournament timing lends itself to different playing conditions and, for connoisseurs of Augusta National & # 39; s flora, a different landscape that lake is characterized by dogwoods and maples.
The ropes and stands are missing this year, replaced by dark painted lines to keep out the handful of people on the track. And some hints of fall colors appear around the track.
Take the 12th hole, the heart of Amen Corner and considered by many to be Augusta's most celebrated hole. A right-handed person at the tee box this week can catch glimpses of reds and yellows not normally seen in the Masters. The bridges over Rae & # 39; s Creek are lightly framed in fall hues.
Still, Phil Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion, said he barely noticed the colors while playing on the court.
"I really don't see much out of the loop," said Mickelson.
TV viewers, presumably not confronted with the distraction Mickelson faces, this year can put aside azalea gazing and keep a closer eye on the trees and how they shape the course's architecture. Some shots, players suggested, may be more enticing because they're more visible due to the lack of leaves or, in some places, spectators.
"It's weird because you can see almost every hole when you stand on tee no. 1 you can look out and see everything," Brooks Koepka said Tuesday. "I'm not used to that."
Weather (sort of)
For all concerns about a frigid Masters, temperatures should approach April with predictions of highs in the upper 70s and lows in the 60s over the weekend. Warming up for a round in benign early morning temperatures should be a breath of fresh air for the fused back of the 44-year-old defending champion.
Instead, thunderstorms are likely to pose a much bigger threat than temperature. Players said the track seemed to play longer and that the crumbling of the greens could be affected if rain rolls over Augusta, but turf experts said the greens were notoriously fast, tricky and to the point of obsessing n, should play the same way as April.
"That place is as different as any other job in the world," said Gerald Henry, a professor of turfgrass management at the University of Georgia. "The pressure that I would explain that goes on at your local golf course just doesn't exist outside of it – and that's on purpose, of course."
A split tee start
The small Masters field with between 90 and 100 golfers generally gives the tournament considerable flexibility when it comes to scheduling tee times: they don't need the players start right at sunrise and they can steer the entire field off tee # 1.
] With limited daylight in November, the Masters use a two tee start for the first two laps. Players will start at No. 1 and No. 10 tees in the early and late morning waves on both Thursday and Friday. The tournament used the rare two-tee start for the final round last year, as it raced to beat the predicted afternoon thunderstorms.
The Masters typically occupy a weekend in April that is free and clear from NCAA basketball tournaments and after the opening day of Major League Baseball. In November the tournament was scheduled around and with a view to football. Executives of Augusta National, its television partner, CBS, the N.F.L. and the Southeastern Conference all worked together to plan this weekend.
The Saturday broadcast on television runs from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. The coverage on Easter and Sunday runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern, with CBS subsequently issuing three N.F.L. spell. The planned close on Sunday will be remarkably close to last year's atypical finish time, when Woods won his fifth Masters just after 2:30 p.m. as thunderstorms approached Augusta.
Football will be some sort of intrusion again. as ESPN & # 39; s popular "College GameDay" will be broadcast live on Saturday mornings from Augusta National & # 39; s Par-3 course. While ESPN is a rights partner carrying the first two rounds of the tournament, the union of Augusta National's soft beeps and GameDay's funny broadcast is a break in tone. “In exploring ways to present a Fall Masters, we were drawn to the concept of hosting College GameDay at Augusta National to introduce the tournament to a new audience and bring even more anticipation and excitement to the event said Fred Ridley, the president of Augusta National
The decision went back to the earliest days of the club and the tournament, when Jones and co-founder Clifford Roberts pursued several promotional and innovative strategies to keep the tournament under bring a wider audience. Roberts often pushed for improved technologies for use in television coverage, such as color broadcasting, more cameras on the track, including a view behind the tee, and the use of visual aids such as track maps. With an unprecedented range of conditions, innovation can once again trump tradition at the Masters.