The Masters: Play suspended on opening day due to lightning and rain

However, the start of this year’s competition — being staged in November rather than April due to the coronavirus pandemic — was a little different as rain and near darkness accompanied the ceremonial tee shots from Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player at Augusta in the first-ever autumn Masters.

The first tee times had to be delayed by 10 minutes to allow the sun to illuminate proceedings sufficiently, and then just 30 minutes of play was possible before lightning in the area stopped play.

Only nine players managed to complete a hole before play was suspended. The tournament is using a two-tee start due to the short daylight hours at this time of year.

All eyes will be on Bryson DeChambeau at the Masters over the next few days.
A golfer the likes of which the sport has never been seen before, DeChambeau’s dedication to trialing new technologies and methods has shot him to the top of the sport, and has ensured he is one of the favorites at Augusta.

But in an already strange year for sport due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Masters will look completely different from previous tournaments.

Gone are the patrons who typically line the fairways and the azaleas that are so associated with the Masters will be an autumnal brown rather than their vibrant green.

Even for a veteran of the tournament like Tiger Woods — who has won the Masters five times — playing this year is going to be “very different.”

“I have been up here in the fall a few times and have played it, and it’s been like this,” the defending Master champion said during a press conference earlier this week.

“But we’ve never played a Masters like this. So it’s going to be very different for all of us. I may never have the opportunity to take the [green] jacket off property again, and so this means a lot to me.”

READ: Forty years on after Seve Ballesteros’ magnificent Masters triumph

Admiration from a great

Woods has been in possession of the iconic green jacket for an unprecedented 19 months due to the competition’s postponement.

However, he has struggled for form, with just five top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour in that time.

DeChambeau, on the other hand, has found his stride and, to coin a boxing expression, his “fighting” weight — 40 additional pounds of weight added on during lockdown has allowed him to hit the ball further and brought about his maiden major win at the US Open at Winged Foot in September.

His desire for self-improvement was the subject of praise from Woods, who himself was at the forefront of pushing the game forward in his early 20s.

DeChambeau plays his tee shot during a practice round prior to the Masters.

“Back then, there wasn’t the technology to optimize our tee shots and optimize the driver yet,” said Woods. “We were just coming out of basically the persimmon days and coming into metal. More guys were switching over to graphite instead of steel.

“The wound ball was very spinny, and heads were very small, so it was important to hit the ball in the middle of the face.

“I happened to have speed and I happened to hit the ball in the middle of the face and was able to have a little bit of an advantage over the guys.

“But now you have the ability to optimize one club, and to be able to use that driver as a weapon, to hit it basically as far as you possibly can, we just didn’t have the technology to be able to optimize that.”

And the combination of DeChambeau’s willingness to work tirelessly in the gym and the advancement in golfing technology has allowed the 27-year-old to push boundaries, something Woods called “incredible.”

DeChambeau putts on the 10th green during a practice round for the Masters.
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“Bryson has put in the time,” added Woods. “He’s put in the work. What he’s done in the gym has been incredible and what he’s done on the range and what he’s done with his entire team to be able to optimize that one club and transform his game and the ability to hit the ball as far as he has and in as short a span as he has, it’s never been done before.

“You know, I had speed, and as you say, in 1997, I hit it far. As I got bigger and I filled out and tried to get stronger, it was to not hit the ball further. It was to be more consistent and to be able to practice longer.

“Actually, I got a little bit shorter as I got into my mid 20s and late 20s. Probably the most speed I ever had, I was 20 years old. So 21, I still had a little bit more speed, but as I got a little bit bigger, I didn’t hit it as far, but I got better.”