AUGUSTA, Ga. — The weather is an annual concern at the Masters, the fickle Georgia climate playing sadistic games with Augusta National lovers. Though delays and rains do occur, they rarely have a monumental effect on the playing of the event; the last Monday finish at the tournament was 1983.
Unfortunately, that streak of providence is in serious jeopardy.
On Saturday afternoon, the official weather report from Augusta National for the final round stated a “30 percent chance for morning showers and isolated thunderstorms, with an 80 percent chance for thunderstorms after 4 p.m. Heavy rain and strong winds are possible, gusting 25-30 mph by later afternoon.” If any semblance of that report comes to fruition, a Sunday finish at the Masters would be in serious doubt.
Monday play is usually considered a fate worse than death for all those involved—players, officials, fans, broadcasters—with a tournament, so with an ominous forecast in hand, what scenarios are at the club’s disposal?
The first would be to simply maintain status quo. Bad weather was supposed to wreak havoc on Friday and Saturday at the tournament, but save for a slight delay, everything has continued on schedule. With just four Monday finishes, history, the thinking goes, is on the club’s side.
Another option would be to move the tee times up Sunday morning. Should a long delay or delays occur, this would give the tournament latitude to complete 72 holes by sunset. Historically, the Masters has avoided this, maintaining the late afternoon slot in order to facilitate a prime-time television finish.
Then there is the idea of splitting the tee times, sending players off both tees, and sources have told Golf Digest that the Masters is contemplating this option. The subject was broached during a volunteers’ meeting Saturday morning.
“They [officials] are worried enough that we were told going off the first and 10th tees is a possibility,” one source told Golf Digest.
Another source, when asked if the subject had merit, replied “That’s what we are hearing.” A gallery volunteer added that “It’s more than just a rumor.”
The split-tee concept is to narrow the amount of tee times needed, shrinking the duration from six hours to three. Because of the large size of the field (a record 65 players made the cut), this would also likely equate to final-round threesomes.
A two-tee start, while unusual at the Masters, is not unprecedented. The first occurred in 1973 during a restart of third round on Sunday; still, the tournament ended on Monday. In 198,2 the second round began at 11:30 a.m. Friday due to a delayed first round with a two-tee start and players grouped in threesomes. The following year, the second round began at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in threesomes. In 2002, the third round started at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday with players going off both tees, and in 2005 the first round was delayed until 1:30 p.m. with a two-tee start in threesomes. As that round was not completed, the second round also included a two-tee, threesomes start.
For this to work, there would need to be separation from the leaders and the middle of the pack. Having a potential winner finish on the ninth green would be far from ideal, and the hole order arguably presents a different test. To implement split tees, those going off the 10th would have to be realistically out of the running.
At this time, a request for comment from Augusta National Golf Club regarding weather-related scenarios has not been returned.
On the bright side, should Sunday be washed out, Monday’s prospects are not as dour. The current forecast calls for no rain and temperatures in the low 70s.
Update: Following his round, Webb Simpson said the players were informed in the scorer’s tent that two-tee threesomes is under consideration for Sunday.