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    Thursday, November 12, 2020

    Golf: The Masters in November, Changes to a Tradition Unlike Any Other

    The Masters Tournament is one of the four major championships in professional golf. The 2020 Masters Tournament will be the 84th edition of the Masters Tournament and was originally scheduled as the first of golf's four major championships to be held in 2020.

    Originally scheduled for April 9–12 at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, the tournament was postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

    On April 6, Augusta National announced the tournament would be held November 12–15. On August 12, it was announced that the tournament would be held without spectators in attendance.

    After a seven-month delay, the Masters is finally here — but like so much in 2020, it will be far different from the tournament we've come to expect each April.

    The state of play: There's a certain feel about Augusta National; a certain rhythm to the Masters. Both will be affected by this week's spectator-less grounds, with some players missing the roar of the crowd — and others enjoying the silence.

    Other big changes:

    • No azaleas: Augusta is designed to look beautiful in April, when its famous pink azaleas and white dogwoods are in full bloom. This year's fall foliage will provide a much different backdrop: less pink, more burnt orange.
    • Split tee start: With limited daylight in November, the Masters will use a two-tee start for Rounds 1 and 2. This means each golfer will begin at least one round on the 10th hole before immediately proceeding to Amen Corner.
    • Football season: The Masters will be up against college football and the NFL for the first time. On Saturday, ESPN's "College GameDay" will broadcast live from Augusta ahead of college football's depleted slate, while Sunday's final round will end at ~3pm ET so CBS can broadcast three NFL games at 4pm.

    Who to watch:

    • The favorite: 27-year-old Bryson DeChambeau has been the PGA Tour's best player since the June restart, averaging nearly 13 more yards off the tee than any other player. He dominated the U.S. Open in September at Winged Foot by six strokes to become just the third player, after Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, to win the U.S. Amateur, the NCAA championship and the Open.
    • The icon: All eyes will be on Woods this week, despite the fact that he's unlikely to repeat last year's inspired victory.
    • Other favorites include Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy.

    How to win:

    • Over the years, the Masters has developed a reputation for being a putting contest, perhaps because so many iconic moments have happened on the greens.
    • If you want to win, having a great long game (i.e. hitting bombs off the tee) is far more important than having the hottest putter.
    • The average Masters winner last decade ranked 12th in strokes gained from tee-to-green that season, and just 98th in putting.

    How to watch:

    • TV: Coverage begins on ESPN today and tomorrow before moving over to CBS, which will broadcast the Masters for the 65th straight year — the longest-running sporting event broadcast on one network.
    • Streaming: Masters.com and the Masters app will stream the ESPN and CBS broadcasts, plus featured-group coverage starting at 7:45am ET daily.

    The bottom line: Despite so many traditions being altered, one still remains: the green jacket. And ultimately, that's what makes the Masters, well, the Masters.

    • Some of the magic is lost without tens of thousands of patrons mulling about, no doubt. But between the lines, from golf shot to golf shot, this week is still certain to give even the most seasoned pros a tingle.
    • There will be no cheers. No ropes. No grandstands. But there will still be high-pressure golf — and there will still be Augusta.

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