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Fiery Augusta to test the best as Masters returns to traditional slot

By Andrew Both

AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) – Augusta National will current a agency and fiery test for the first spherical not less than as the eighty fifth Masters begins with spectators however with out Tiger Woods on Thursday.

With followers again on-site in restricted numbers after being absent from final November’s distinctive autumn Masters due to coronavirus considerations, the sport’s most unique main championship reverts to its traditional, vibrant spring time slot.

There has hardly been a cloud in the sky all week, permitting the circumstances to agency up and dry out, a lot in order that workers had been hand-watering some greens on Wednesday as most of the 88-man subject loved a closing apply spherical.

Possible rain on Friday and, extra probably Saturday, may put a dampener on issues, each actually and figuratively, as the enterprise finish of the event unfolds.

“I think we have the golf course where we want it. It’s playing firm and fast, and not only the greens but the fairways,” Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley mentioned on Wednesday.

“The ball really is rolling … Our intention would be to maintain that throughout the week. In the past we might have started out a little soft and then got firmer as the week went on and vice versa, and last year we were pretty soft all week.”

The circumstances ought to forestall anybody from coming shut to the report low rating of 20-under-par 268 posted by 2020 champion Dustin Johnson.

He returns as one in every of the high fancies, vying for favouritism with fellow Americans Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth.

Brooks Koepka, not so way back the recreation’s dominant pressure, will play regardless of latest knee surgical procedure. He has not competed for greater than a month and the state of his recreation is tough to appraise.

International gamers comprise greater than half the subject, and far curiosity will focus as ever on Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy’s quest to full the profession Grand Slam of all 4 majors.

His type, nonetheless, has been patchy of late.

Notably absent might be Woods, two years on from capturing his fifteenth main title, and fifth Green Jacket, at the age of 43.

He sustained extreme leg accidents in a automobile crash in February and is recuperating at house in Florida.

(Reporting by Andrew Both, modifying by Ed Osmond)

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