Players say Masters will be hurt the most without fans

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Tommy Fleetwood
Tommy Fleetwood

Playing behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Masters figures to be the major hurt the most with the roars of spectators silenced, according to players on Monday.

The 84th Masters, postponed eight months by the pandemic, tees off on Thursday at Augusta National, where grandstands and guide ropes are absent and cheers for spectacular shot-making are only memories.

"This place, more than any other place I think, will feel so much different because the atmosphere is so much different than all the other weeks," 10th-ranked Patrick Cantlay said.

"Fans here are some of the most educated and most respectful fans so they really add to the tournament in a way that every week they don't.

"It will be strange to not hear any of that. It's just a feeling that won't be there. That energy you can feel around the golf course, you won't be able to feel it this year."

England's Tommy Fleetwood, a US and British Open runner-up, says seeing magical moments every year at Augusta for decades makes the loss of fans especially tough on atmosphere.

"This one is going to feel the most different," he said. "You associate so many moments in the history of the tournament, so many moments you know on the back nine, with the patrons and how they react.

"There's always noise like the rumblings, even when it's quiet, nobody's cheering, there's always noise everywhere. There's always an energy you get from the crowd, even on a Monday, that just isn't there.

"At the same time, it's a major. They're all career defining weeks."

No one knows that better than Adam Scott, who in 2013 became the first Australian to win the Masters after watching idol Greg Norman come oh-so close for years.

"It couldn't be more different playing without the spectators. It's a huge difference," Scott said. "It's noticeable when you go to a major on a Saturday and the atmosphere isn't there."

Scott says the feeling at Augusta's first tee with spectators is the most nerve-wracking of any season.

"It's the atmosphere they create," Scott said. "For me, the first tee at Augusta is the most nervous I feel at any point during the year - that anticipation, usually eight months of waiting from major to the next major, and it just being the Masters.

"Walking to that first tee Thursday, the nerves are at an all-time high, and that's because the eyeballs are on you and it's the build-up and it's what has been created over the years."

And there's the thrill of hearing a roar from somewhere else on the course.

"Those roars you talk about. You know what's going on. You know if it's an eagle. You know if it's a birdie. You know if it's for Tiger or Phil, and that excitement."

No fans? No problem

PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa is happy not to have fans for the rare view it offers of Augusta National.

"I got very lucky showing up to the Masters having no fans," Morikawa said. "I didn't have to look at the fans line the fairways or see the grandstands.

"I saw the course for what it is. That's going to be really beneficial, not just for this year, but for years forward. Sight lines might change with grandstands, but to see it for what it is, very helpful."

Newcomer Matthew Wolff will be calmer without the usual patrons on hand.

"Coming down the stretch with a one-shot lead, it's definitely a little more relaxing without thousands of fans sitting behind the green watching your every shot," he said.

"Even though they are all watching behind that camera it's a little different when you're in person and you see all of them."

And while having no grandstands might open some areas, Fleetwood sees no real advantage.

"You're just you're looking at shots that you probably knew you could hit anyway," he said. "They just actually look way more accessible now."

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