By Connor Thomas
Yesterday morning, the 85th edition of The Masters Tournament teed off in Augusta, Georgia. While the 85th may look like 83 previous versions, last year’s 84th tourney was the most unique in the history of Augusta National. Of course, just over 4 months ago, this same event took place for the first time outside of the month of April, being pushed to November due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Not only were the conditions vastly different than any previous year, there was another big change in 2020: the grounds were desolate outside of the golfers competing. Gone were the roars that normally echoed through the pines, over the azaleas, signifying a chip in, a tough putt, the rare ace, a huge moment in the biggest of tournaments. The 84th edition had its moments, culminating in a teary-eyed Dustin Johnson donning his first green jacket, but for all it meant to DJ and a few others, the lack of patrons left the occasion feeling… well, empty.
So when millions tuned in yesterday to the first round of the 2021 Masters, one of the most welcome differences was the throngs of patrons adorning the fairways and greens of Amen Corner and beyond. Unfortunately, the source of some of the loudest roars in golf, one Eldrick Tiger Woods, was not in attendance this year following his car crash related injuries. Just as The Masters isn’t the same without patrons, it isn’t the same without Tiger. But in lieu of the prior as an option, having the latter back was an incredibly welcome sight. We even got the first big roar in over 2 calendar years, as Tommy Fleetwood’s first shot on No. 16 resulted in the 23rd hole in one in Masters Tournament history.
Not every patron had the safest day, as even the best golfers in the world will occasionally have to call out fore left or right, but even one of those unlucky swings turned into a memorable moment, as Rory McIlroy hit an errant shot on the 7th hole that struck a man in the crowd – his father. In a normal round of golf, if one of your shots hits your dad you can usually count on a string of curses and maybe a club thrown in your direction, but not at The Masters. It was another unique moment that we were not afforded last year, which reminded us of just how special this event is to so many people.
Hopefully those in attendance and others watching on television were not expecting to see the purest golf in the world; the course played incredibly hard yesterday, affording only 12 of the 88 golfers a round under par. Outside of Justin Rose, who had one of the better back 9s in the history of Augusta National, there are many players that are longing for the November days that led to some of the lowest scores in the history of the tournament this past year. But for golf fans around the world, and sports fans in general, the return of patrons to The 85th Masters Tournament was another step towards normalcy, and it was a beautiful reminder of how much better patrons make the spectacle of sport.