By Alex Myers
About 20 minutes before the ceremonial opening tee shots on Thursday, another tradition unlike any other returned to the Masters. You just didn’t see it on camera.
That’s when tournament volunteers lowered the ropes to let fans in through the main entrance, and those in attendance assumed a familiar, hurried walk up the hill to the first tee. There’s no running at Augusta National, but a certain level of speed-walking is permitted—and required—if you’re going to get a prime spot to watch the action.
At least, in normal years.
Patrons are here this week in limited fashion due to COVID-19, lessening the sense of urgency to get in position. By the time Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Elder got to the tee, the crowd seemed pretty typical. But once that memorable moment passed and those attending started (calmly) dispersing to various corners of the course—where there are no grandstands set up this year—there was a stark contrast to previous editions of the April event.
“It’s entirely different,” said Nonie Price, who has attended the tournament most years since 1966. Not that that’s a bad thing.
“I was able to park right near the entrance and I can see so much better,” added Price, who proudly hails from defending champ Dustin Johnson’s Irmo, S.C. “I’m so short, normally it’s tough for me to watch, but now it’s wide open. You can really get great views and appreciate the flowers.”
Appreciate was a word that came up often when talking to patrons. After all, a limited number (Augusta National never releases attendance figures, but we’re estimating 20-25 percent) is a lot better than having none at all like last November.
During his press conference on Wednesday, Masters chairman Fred Ridley noted that patrons who did receive badges came from all the different credential holder categories that are traditionally offered (daily ticket holders, weekly badge holders and corporate partners) as well as additional badges for local healthcare workers.
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