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The majesty returns as Masters week gets started in Augusta

Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 9:12 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Masters week has begun, with today the first of three practice rounds at Augusta National Golf Club before the tournament starts on Thursday.

Some things are different this time, but much is the same.

The Augusta National scaled back the number of practice round tickets and tournament badges due to COVID-19.

Safety steps include masks and social distancing on the course.

Still with all the changes this April, the iconic sights have returned. The azaleas are in full bloom. The course is perfection. The gift shops are open for patrons who want to take home more than memories.

Some of the coveted badges on Day 1 of Masters week went to those who participated in the women’s amateur and drive, chip, and putt.

Our crews spotted quite a few of the young golfers and their families.

“It’s just super-beautiful. All the grass and the flowers and the range and the practice facility. It’s really cool. And it’s just all so beautiful,” said Brady Barrington from California.

Kanley Barrington said: “It’s just a cool experience because I’ve never been to Georgia or Augusta. It’s just really fun.”

And of course last year’s defending Masters champion, Dustin Johnson, was out early at the practice range.

In the fall tournament, Johnson not only claimed his first green jacket but also won with the lowest score in the history of the Masters at 20 under par.

The golfer from Columbia, S.C., returns for his 11th consecutive round.

Also making a return to Augusta this Masters week is Lee Elder, the first Black man to ever play at the Masters.

Elder on Tuesday will be awarded an honorary degree for lifetime achievement during an invitation-only reception at Paine College.

Elder was also invited to be an honorary starter for this week’s Masters. He’ll join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to get the tournament underway on Thursday.

Photo gallery: Click “Read more” below

Masters 2021

An honor for a golf pioneer

The traditions continue

One tradition of the Masters that will continue this year is the Champions Dinner, happening Tuesday.

Following tradition, the menu is chosen by the defending Masters winner.

That means Dustin Johnson is making the pick.

He’ll serve pigs in a blanket and lobster and corn fritters to start.

For the main course, there will be filet mignon and sea bass with mashed potatoes and vegetables.

The meal will finish off with peach cobbler and apple pie with ice cream.

The Champions Dinner is traditionally held the Tuesday of Masters week.

Another tradition is the Drive, Chip and Putt national finals, which were held Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club.

The Drive, Chip and Putt tournament made a return to Augusta National after being canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event started in 2013 and brings together some of the country’s best golfers between ages 7 and 15.

It’s a great way for them to get a glimpse of what playing at Augusta National would be like and a chance for us to see some of the game’s next young stars.

So after more than a year of waiting, the finalists finally got to show their skills at Augusta National.

The champion in the girls 14015 age group told us it’s a lot to take in.

“I think the first year, I was more in awe of what was happening and where I was at, and this year, I kept my nerves more steady,” Ali Mulhall said.

“I was able to take it in more and just stay even throughout the whole competition.”

And the day before the Drive, Chip and Putt finals, there was more action at Augusta National.

The final round of the Women’s Amateur was held Saturday.

Out of a field of 82, only 30 made it to the finals.

Winning this year’s Women’s Amateur was Tsubasa Kajitani from Japan.

The 17-year-old managed to win by one in a sudden-death playoff.

She shot even-par in her final round, finishing one over in the tournament.

Also back this year is the Drive for Show, Rock Fore! Dough concert, but with a new twist.

It will go virtual this year.

At 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, you can watch benefit performances from Luke Combs, Darius Rucker, Jake Owen, Josh Kelley, and Drew Holcomb online on Rock Fore! Dough social media sites. This entire event is free of charge.

“As much as we would love to welcome golf and music fans back to our driving range, the safety of concert-goers, staff, and artists remains our top priority,” said Jill Brown, First Tee - Augusta Executive Director. “But the thought of not continuing the tradition of great music from amazing artists to support our organization was not acceptable either, so we’ve got an amazing show to stream!”

This concert is presented by the Murray Brothers Caddyshack & William Murray Golf. Over the years, the Rock Fore! Dough concerts have raised over $1.65 Million for First Tee - Augusta. While 2021 is the first time it will be a virtual show, it’s the 17th year this Masters week tradition will be part of golf week in Augusta.

What will traffic be like?

The start of Masters week comes with a lot of changes to Augusta.

That includes traffic, and typically a lot of it.

But this year, traffic engineers aren’t expecting the usual surge.

Because of that, the normal road closures are not happening.

But city workers say they are still prepared for anything.

Augusta traffic engineers say they’re not expecting traffic to be too crazy this year; they say it will look pretty similar to a busy rush hour.

But they say if traffic gets worse than anticipated, they will be ready.

A reduced number of patrons means a reduced number of vehicles will be out on the roads, so they will leave Washington Road open today to gain easier access to Augusta National.

They are making a change to Berckmans Road. Normally, they turn it into a one way but this year they are leaving both ways open.

Traffic engineers expect 6,000 to 10,000 additional cars on the roads today.

They say the morning traffic should be pretty normal but they’re expecting things to pick up later in the afternoon.

“Everybody will be leaving about at the same time, so as you’re ready to go home after you’ve worked all day, the patrons, the staff, everybody will be exiting about at the same time,” said John Ussery, Assistant director for Augusta traffic engineering.

City workers will also be manually controlling traffic signals today to help traffic flow a lot smoother.

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