I was supposed to be on site at the Masters this year, nudging my number of visits to that iconic venue into double figures.  I think I would have found it refreshing to be in Georgia in November, as opposed to April, just to see how different things might be from the spring norm.  I’d have been very curious to experience Augusta National Golf Club a little more as the members do – in other words, as the beautiful, undulating, enormous and largely empty expanse of greenery that it is.

As anticipation has grown leading into this final major of 2020 there has been much chat and speculation in the build-up to the off.  Just how differently will the course look, play and feel?  Will experience count for even more or will the autumn date prove an equaliser?  Perhaps we’ll see a player making his Masters debut don the green jacket for the first time since 1979 and Fuzzy Zoeller’s victory?  That is certainly a possibility and with first-timers of the calibre of Collin Morikawa, Matt Wolff, Cameron Champ and Scottie Scheffler in the field I wouldn’t bet against it.

Another 2020 casualty – no Par 3 tournament on the Wednesday of Masters week.

There’s no denying that this Masters will, indeed, be different, very different.  There’ll be no ropes, no grandstands, no cheese pimento sandwiches, no Pinkerton guards on duty at the greens, no enormous queues outside the merchandise shop, no huge traffic jams on Washington Road and, perhaps most tellingly of all, no patrons.

“Patrons” is the preferred Augusta National Golf Club term for the colourful rivers of spectators that flow into and around the golf course for seven consecutive days from dawn to dusk.  They are an integral, shifting, kaleidoscopic backdrop to this major, skilfully moulded into neat, regulated seating areas around the greens so they complement any picture that may find itself framed by a photographer’s lens.  Visually, they add to the overall look but it is audibly that they add a unique, and potentially influential quality to this tournament.

Perhaps the most famous of all the holes at Augusta National golf course, the 13th. This year, however, it is quietly patron-free.

The course, frequently referred to as the “cathedral in the pines” has provided some of the greatest moments in our sport, all played out to the accompaniment of that unique Masters soundtrack of spine-tingling roars echoing across the back nine on Sunday.  The galleries are an ever-present audible scoreboard for the contenders who can pinpoint the rolling cheers to exactly the right hole and, often, to the very player making a move.  This doesn’t generally happen at the other majors.  However, the combination of annual visits to Augusta, a dipping and climbing topography over the back nine and shifting breezes funnelling through corridors of pines provides an all-around sound that can either inspire or destroy a player.  And this is one of the main reasons I wouldn’t be surprised if our next Masters champion were to be playing at Augusta for the very first time.  That challenge to maintaining focus at the sharp end of the tournament will be absent.

Is this the last time we’ll see Tiger defend a major title?
Or has he got room in his wardrobe for a sixth green jacket? [Courtesy of @TheMasters.]

One place I will not be absent from is my spot in front of the telly.  Exercise will be limited to the route from that spot to the kitchen and back again – and perhaps I won’t even have to do that too often as Patricia has joined our bubble for the duration.  We kicked off our week with a seven-person Zoom call to choose five men each.  Playing cards were drawn to decide order of choice and a modest sum lobbed into the virtual pot from which the runner-up will get their stake back and the winner will take the rest.  In the diary each day is a 5.30pm (GMT) Zoom drink together with certain of our number insisting that there is only one drink to consider – the famed Pink Azalea!  My better half won’t touch that with a bargepole, but for those of you who’d like to try it, here’s the recipe:-


The Masters Pink Azalea

1 part lime/lemon juice

1 part pineapple juice

3 parts gin

Grenadine to colour pink


A word of warning though – don’t indulge in too many too early or you’ll fall asleep and miss the end of the day’s play!

So, it’s certainly going to be a little different for me this year.  It puts me in mind of the Irish rugby fans who went to Edinburgh for the Six Nations match against Scotland.  They decided to have a stroll down Rose Street and have a pint or two before making their way to the ground.  Once ensconced in the pub the craic with the Scots was mighty and they were just about to drag themselves away to Murrayfield when the publican asked them why they were leaving.  They explained they were off to the match and were astonished when the landlord informed them he doubted they’d make it on time.  When they enquired just why he thought that, back came the succinct reply, “Because the match is in Dublin!”  So, of course, there was nothing for it but to park themselves down again and watch the match on the box surrounded by the Scots.  A new ritual was born that day – the Irish lads had such a wonderful time on that occasion they repeated that routine for many years to come – including the years the match was in Dublin!

Perhaps this year will signal the start of a new Masters ritual for me…