10 Nov 2020

The Masters: but not as we know it

Since 1945, The Masters has always been played during the month of April and has typically come to signal the end of a winter and the start of the Major season, with the US Open, The Open and US PGA traditionally held in the following months.

That tradition has been ripped up by the coronavirus pandemic and this year’s Masters has been shuffled forward to November, meaning there will be just a five month gap between the Green Jacket being handed to the 2020 and 2021 winners, with next year’s event set for April.

At this year’s tournament the usual blooming azaleas and flowering blossoms will be few and far between, instead the evergreen pines will likely be offset by brown, orange and red hues as the leaves on the other trees and shrubs on the property begin to change colour, before eventually falling.

The average temperature and rainfall figures for November are eerily similar to that of April, with the temperature just a few degrees lower.

However, the prevailing winds in autumn tend to come from the colder north, whereas in the spring they make their way up from the warmer south.

This will create many headaches for players with past experience of Augusta as club selection and strategies may change to factor in the different wind directions and cooler temperatures.

Indeed, the northerly wind – which blows into the players on the first hole – will make three of the par 5s play into the wind.

That could mean that fewer players will be able to reach on holes 8, 13 and 15 in two shots, and attempting it will be riskier, especially on the back nine with water coming into play up at the green on 13 and 15.

The most recent Masters to be played in very cold and wet conditions was the 2007 edition, won by Zach Johnson with a score of 1-over-par.

It was the first over-par winning score at Augusta National in four decades and Johnson famously laid-up on every par 5 en route to victory.

However, the forecast this week is for it to be warm but with a seemingly constant threat of showers, so short sleeves will be the order of the day for most players with the umbrellas at the ready if the clouds do roll in.

One thing officials will want in the course set-up is firm and fast greens – the only real defence the layout has.

Their Sub-Air system in the greens will be working overtime should it rain consistently and they may cut back the first cut of rough to allow off-line drives to run into trouble instead of being held in the longer grass before the ball reaches the trees in the pine straw or water hazards.

It’s all set to be another shoot-out between the game’s very best players.

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