After a year in which the Masters was played in November due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the most famous tournament on the PGA Tour is back in its usual time of the year. The world’s best golfers return to Augusta National starting on Thursday morning for the 2021 Masters.
Dustin Johnson heads into this year’s Masters not only as the No. 1 golfer in the world, but also as the defending champion as he won by five strokes in 2020. He will tee off at 10:30 a.m. Eastern in a group with Lee Westwood and amateur Tyler Strafaci.
Another notable group to watch is the trio of Tony Finau, Louis Oosthuizen and Justin Thomas. The three golfers are the second-to-last group to tee off at 1:48 p.m.
Where: Augusta National Golf Club (Augusta, Ga.).
When: Thursday, April 8-Sunday, April 11, 2021.
TV coverage: Thursday-Friday, 3-7 p.m. (ESPN); Saturday, 3-7 p.m. (CBS); Sunday, 2-7 p.m. (CBS).
Cable channel finder: AT&T U-Verse, Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum/Charter, Optimum/Altice, Cox, DIRECTV, Dish, Verizon Fios, WOW.
Live streams: FuboTV (free 7-day trial), Paramount+ (free 7-day trial), Hulu + Live TV (free trial) and Sling TV (promotional offers).
Tee times: See the Day 1 tee times
Live updates: Follow along with a live leaderboard
Read some of what Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press wrote about the Masters moving to its usual time of the calendar.
No one needed to see the colorful blooms at Augusta National to realize this will be a much different Masters than the last one. It was the color of the greens.
They were yellow. On Wednesday.
The excitement of the first major of the golf season was mixed with no small measure of trepidation about the test Augusta National might present this week without intervention and a little precipitation.
Fred Couples, who played his first Masters in 1983 and is competing for the 36th time, played a practice round Wednesday with Rory McIlroy.
“Rory said it five times: ‘Have you ever seen the greens like this on Wednesday?’ And five times in a row I said, ‘No,’” Couples said. “He was laughing. So I think if it stays like this, come even Friday, Saturday, Sunday, I mean, honestly, a 70 or 71 will be a heck of a score.”
A score like that would have meant getting lapped in November, when the Masters had to take an autumn date after it was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dustin Johnson played conservatively along the back nine because he had a big lead, and he still finished with a record score of 20-under 268 to win by five shots in the lowest-scoring Masters in history.
“I’ve seen some young guys this week have a slightly deer-in-the-headlights look because they’ve walked out on a couple of those greens and they’ve seen the color of them and they’ve felt the firmness,” Paul Casey said. “You can see they’re kind of going, ‘Whoa. This is a whole different animal.’”
Still to be determined is what the weather has in store for the rest of the week. The sun has added that scary shine to the putting surfaces starting with the Augusta National Women’s Amateur on Saturday — the winning score was at 1-over par. Scattered storms are in the forecast the rest of the way.
For the the 13 players who played the Masters for the first time in November, it’s like starting over.
“November is a Masters that we’ll probably never see again,” Webb Simpson said. “You know, flying hybrids, 5-woods, 3-woods to the hole and the ball stopping. It’s good to forget about that because that’s not our normal Masters. It’s in a way relearning the nuances.”
Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau dropped balls left of the 10th green Wednesday morning to play chip shots to potential hole locations. Mickelson is a three-time Masters champion and a wizard with the wedge. After his second shot, he looked over at DeChambeau and said, “Boy, it’s tough when it’s dry.”
So much about the Masters will be so different, minus expectations of the usual suspects — a little more noise from at least some spectators.
Johnson won the Saudi International for his only victory in six starts this year, though he has been in a bit of a funk the last month. No one is suggesting the green jacket he won in November should come with a footnote given the conditions. He was that much better than everyone else.