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Silence will be deafening at Masters

By Doug Ferguson

The Associated Press

The Masters, known as much for the roars as the raw beauty of Augusta National, will be on mute this year. The club decided Wednesday there will be no spectators.

That means all three majors in this year of COVID-19 will not have fans, and the silence figures to be most deafening at Augusta National when the Masters is played Nov. 12-15.

From the opening holes down to Amen Corner all the way through the back nine, players can often figure out what’s happening with others just by listening. That will be missing this year, along with the azalea and dogwood blooms from having to move it from April.

Considered in some circles to be the cathedral of golf, Augusta National now will sound like one.

Tourney director Fred Ridley said the health of everyone involved with the tournament during the COVID-19 pandemic was paramount in rescheduling the Masters from April and deciding whether it could have spectators, even a limited gallery.

“The guests who come to Augusta each spring from around the world are a key component to making the tournament so special,” he said. “Augusta National has the responsibility, however, to understand and accept the challenges associated with this virus and take the necessary precautions to conduct all aspects of the tournament in a safe manner.

Ridley said all tickets will be honored for next April, and the club would contact ticket holders and those who have applied for tickets for next April’s Masters sometime next month.

Golf is coming off its first major without fans last week at the PGA Championship. The U.S. Open, moved from June to Sept. 17-20 because of the pandemic, previously announced it won’t have spectators at Winged Foot.

The British Open announced in April it would be canceled this year.

The lack of noise was noticeable at Harding Park last week for the PGA Championship in San Francisco, especially when Collin Morikawa hit driver to 7 feet on the 16th hole for an eagle that sent him to his first major championship. There were a few media, mainly the broadcast crew, along with a few volunteers and support staff.

But a shot that memorable was greeted with mostly silence.

“This is the one time I really wish there were crowds right there,” Morikawa said with a laugh.

The Masters, though, is different. Built on a former nursery, the back nine descends steeply toward Rae’s Creek and Amen Corner before making a steady climb toward the clubhouse. Pockets of roars come from everywhere.

Tiger Woods leaned on them when he won his fifth green jacket last year, studying every white scoreboard so that he would understand who was where and what a cheer might mean.

The roars carried Jack Nicklaus to his astounding 30 on the back nine when he rallied to win his sixth Masters in 1986.

The fabled “Arnie’s Army” began with a group of soldiers from nearby Fort Gordon in the late 1950s, but it grew to include practically every patron on the grounds. Palmer felt as though he knew them all as they cheered him to four victories.

Woods was making a charge in 2011 when two reporters waiting to cross the eighth fairway heard a roar that rattled the pines. What happened? A marshal said Woods had just hit his approach, and it was clear what the noise meant — an eagle that momentarily tied him for the lead.

A few minutes later, a roar from Amen Corner. And then another from behind the 13th green. And another from the second green. That was from all the scoreboards being changed to show Woods tied for the lead.

That’s what will be missing in November.

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