The patrons return to the Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Dustin Johnson didn’t really feel like his Masters victory was much less vital final fall as a result of no followers have been at Augusta Nationwide to see his win and have a good time with him.

That mentioned, he pays them the final praise: In his eyes, they make the Masters what it’s.

“It’s thrilling to have them again,” Johnson mentioned.

Welcome again, patrons. Welcome again, Masters in the springtime. Welcome again, all issues at Augusta Nationwide that bloom this time of 12 months and supply the backdrop for maybe the most picturesque locale in golf.

There are new guidelines — masks should be worn, social distancing insurance policies apply and there’s no consuming or ingesting round the roped-off spots closest to the greens — however after a one-year pandemic-caused absence, followers are again at the Masters.

“You may see it in my face,” world No. 4-ranked participant Collin Morikawa mentioned as he broke into a giant smile when requested about the return of patrons. “We like it. I actually miss it. It was nice to see followers slowly come again over the previous month, month and a half. And I do know everybody, the Masters, the PGA Tour is doing their job to keep protected and ensure we’re nonetheless dealing with every part correctly.

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“It’s positively going to line some fairways otherwise, which is, I feel, really going to be good,” he added. “So, we missed it, and we’re really glad they’re again.”

The membership is permitting restricted spectators, a quantity believed to be round 8,000. It is going to be the first main to permit spectators since the pandemic started, and what’s all the time a troublesome ticket received even harder this 12 months due to the smaller variety of permitted attendees.

“We hoped it will be potential to welcome again all of our patrons in 2021,” Augusta Nationwide and Masters Chairman Fred Ridley mentioned Wednesday. “Based mostly on present circumstances, nonetheless, we concluded the proper plan of action was to restrict patrons this week, and we’ve got executed that with applicable well being and security protocols in place. We’re optimistic that circumstances will proceed to enhance, and we glance ahead subsequent 12 months to the full return of the signature roars which were part of Masters historical past.”

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There can be roars this 12 months, not less than.

Smaller roars, maybe, however roars nonetheless. Individuals who have been to Augusta Nationwide sufficient say that the sounds alone can inform you what is occurring a number of holes away.

“You may learn what’s happening round this golf course simply from the cheers,” mentioned Lee Westwood, about to play his twentieth Masters.

Followers may attend the apply rounds that began Monday, partaking in all the Masters traditions that they missed out on final 12 months when Augusta Nationwide remained closed to nearly all people. They munch on the pimento cheese or egg salad sandwiches — $1.50 every. Fancier sandwiches, akin to the Masters membership, or ham-and-cheese on rye, or turkey-and-cheese on wheat, run $2.50. Barbecue sandwiches are $3. Beer is the priciest factor on the concession menu, at a not-whopping $5 apiece.

Followers go to the reward store and purchase no matter they will get with a Masters emblem, from chairs to cuff hyperlinks, towels to T-shirts, golf balls to gnomes.

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Then they head again outdoors, to golf’s ceremony of spring.

“It’s my first time right here and I’m right here with a pal who has been to Augusta Nationwide many occasions,” Jack Cavanaugh, a retired gross sales govt from Jacksonville, Florida, mentioned as he watched Westwood in the apply space. “He says there’s nothing prefer it. I say he’s proper.”

Bubba Watson, a two-time Masters winner who’s a infamous Georgia soccer fan, is aware of he’ll be listening to much more “Go Dawgs” as he walks previous folks this week. Phil Mickelson was clearly having fun with his interactions with followers throughout a apply spherical Tuesday. U.S. Beginner champion Tyler Strafaci mentioned he’s keen to hear the roars and plans to throw some fist pumps their means however famous that it’ll be nerve-wracking to see the folks — nonetheless many are there — when he tees off alongside Johnson for the opening rounds Thursday and Friday.

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“I’m simply hoping to make contact with that ball on the first tee,” Strafaci mentioned.

Augusta Nationwide is permitting these in the similar group — like a household attending collectively — to place their chairs side-by-side, however all teams should arrange not less than 6 ft (1.8 meters) away from different events. Safety guards are politely reminding folks about the guidelines concerning consuming and ingesting close to the ropes, together with mask-wearing.

No person appears to thoughts an additional rule or two. It is the Masters. 

“Anyone can be glad to win any event, any 12 months, followers or no followers,” world No. 2-ranked participant Justin Thomas mentioned. “However while you’re ready to hit these pictures and make these putts and do it in entrance of nonetheless many 1000’s of followers, it’s even sweeter. I do know it’s sort of bizarre to say or exhausting to clarify, however simply having to management your feelings and having to perceive what you do in your golf recreation while you get in these situations, it simply provides one other aspect to it.”

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Extra AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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