The first round of a Masters unlike any other begins in just 16 days. Lots of questions surround this year’s unprecedented November event, but an Augusta National press release on Tuesday morning has provided some clarity — and surprises — regarding the biggest golf tournament of the year.
Here’s what we learned for the 84th Masters, which starts on Nov. 12-15.
ESPN’s College GameDay is coming!
ESPN’s College GameDay — yes, you read that correctly — is headed to Augusta National. No patrons are allowed on site this year, but that allowed Augusta to think outside of the box. ESPN’s popular college football preview show travels to a new site every week. Somehow the idea came up to go to Augusta National. The Masters and ESPN have been long-time broadcast partners, which obviously helped the deal come to life.
“When exploring ways to showcase a fall Masters, we were drawn to the concept of hosting College GameDay at Augusta National to introduce the Tournament to a new audience and provide even more anticipation and excitement to the event,” Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley said in the press release.
GameDay will air from 9 a.m. to noon ET on Saturday, Nov. 14. The studio will overlook Ike’s Pond and the 9th green of the Par-3 course.
The Wednesday Par-3 Contest has been canceled
One of the many traditions that helped make the Masters the Masters, its annual Par-3 Contest on Wednesday of tournament week, has been canceled, according to the release. The event has long-been a fun, laid-back 9-holer for patrons and players the day before the opening round, with wives, girlfriends and kids caddying for players or tagging along.
“The fun and excitement of watching Masters competitors with their friends and family is what makes the Par-3 Contest such a special part of Masters week,” Ridley said. “We know that experience could not have been replicated without guests and patrons at Augusta National, and we eagerly anticipate the opportunity to bring back this signature tradition.”
The ceremonial opening tee shots are still on
Speaking of Masters traditions, one that is still scheduled is Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player kicking off the tournament as honorary starters on Thursday morning. Tee times will begin shortly after Nicklaus and Player launch their drives down the par-4 1st fairway. No, there won’t be rows and rows of patrons looking on, but don’t be surprised to see a few more players get an up-close view.
Players will go off on split tees the first two rounds
Tee times have yet to be announced, but the release said players will go off the 1st and 10th tees in two waves for the first two rounds. While the decision is rare, it’s not exactly surprising. Fitting in the first two rounds was always a concern with the lack of daylight for a November Masters compared to an April Masters.
Last year, when Tiger Woods won, it was the first time in Masters history that the final round was played from split tees, since tee times were pushed forward due to an ominous afternoon weather forecast. In other years, although sparingly and due to weather, the Masters has implemented split tees for the first three rounds.
We know the TV schedule
Tournament coverage runs from 1-5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN for the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 12-13. CBS picks up the weekend coverage (after ESPN airs College GameDay on Saturday morning), with its broadcast at 1-5 p.m. ET on Saturday and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday. The Sunday tee times have been pushed up to accommodate CBS’ NFL football late game on Sunday.
You’ll get an enhanced viewing experience
The Masters broadcast is always evolving. This year there are plans to add new unique views seen on your TV or device that “showcase distinctive angles and shots from around the course.”
Masters Digital will also unveil a new “My Group” feature, which will allow fans to personalize their feed and track their favorite players’ every shot. Additionally, a new live feed will tackle all of the action from the 4th, 5th and 6th holes, which previously weren’t included under the site’s featured video options.