Better late than never.
It may be seven months later in the calendar, but The Masters, and a weekend in front of the TV watching it, is finally upon us.
Normally the first major of the golfing season in mid-April, this year’s tournament was postponed earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For a while, some feared that the 2020 Masters wouldn’t take place at all. After all, the R&A decided to cancel the 2020 Open Championship while the Ryder Cup was pushed back an entire year to September 2021.
— The Masters (@TheMasters) October 15, 2020
While the Masters was rescheduled, the ongoing fight against Covid-19 meant that a cancellation was always possible.
However, with the PGA Tour having returned successfully in June following a three-month layoff, fans will be treated to the annual shootout at Augusta National – albeit in autumn, not spring.
When does it start?
The Masters will take place between 12-15 November. Tiger Woods is the defending champion after his remarkable victory in April 2019.
Tiger hopes to equal Jack Nicklaus’ record of six Masters titles with a successful defence this year.
How can I follow the Masters on TV?
As usual, Sky Sports will broadcast all four rounds from Augusta. Their coverage begins with action from the featured groups at 12.30 pm Irish time on Thursday.
Their full coverage begins at 6 pm and is scheduled to end at 10.30 pm.
Friday sees the same schedule while action from the third round will start at 6 pm on Saturday.
On Sunday, they will cover the climactic round from 3 pm.
In addition to Sky’s coverage, you will able to follow every shot from your favourite players on the Masters website and app thanks to the tournament’s “Every Shot, Every Hole” technology which was introduced in 2019.
What will be different about this year’s tournament?
There are some pretty major changes.
First, there will be no spectators. This is obviously disappointing given how Augusta generates such an electric atmosphere, but it was decided that staging the event without patrons (what they call spectators around Augusta) is the safest option in the current climate.
This year’s other two majors, the US Open and the PGA Championship, were both played without fans on the course.
There will also be no par-3 contest this year. While a somewhat minor disappointment in comparison to the lack of fans, the traditional par-3 competition – usually staged on the day prior to play starting – is often an entertaining and light-hearted prelude to the week’s action.
Another slight alteration from previous years will be earlier tee times. Given the lack of daylight in November compared to April, tournament organisers will aim to have each round completed by 5.30 pm local time (10.30 pm Irish time).
How much Irish interest is there this year?
There are four Irishmen in the field this year.
Rory McIlroy once again hopes of completing his arduous quest for a career grand slam. The world number five, whose best finish at Augusta was fourth place in 2015, has struggled for form since golf returned from lockdown with no top-five finishes in his last 13 events.
Shane Lowry will also be in the field following his memorable Open Championship triumph at Royal Portrush in 2019. Like McIlroy, the Offaly native’s form has been patchy of late. He has missed the cut on three of his four previous visits to Augusta.
Graeme McDowell will make his return to the tournament for the first time since 2016 after winning in Saudi Arabia earlier this year.
Finally, Cork amateur James Sugrue will make his Masters debut, receiving an invite after winning the 2019 British Amateur Championship.