Former Masters champion Ian Woosnam explains what we can expect from Augusta in autumn
Baiting Ian Woosnam was like showing a red rag to a bull. “It motivates me,” he says. “If someone says something, it was ‘Well, I’ll show you.’”
In the face of a crowd that was decidedly pro-American, willing on their favourite Tom Watson, the Welshman famously silenced the Augusta National ‘patrons’ when he won the Masters in 1991.
Now, as we prepare to break new ground with a tournament held for the first time in November, all the players are going to notice is the quiet.
The coronavirus pandemic has robbed this year’s Green Jacket winner of an adoring public and, while we can imagine it, the eerie hush around those famous holes is going to be an unusual experience wherever you take it in.
“It’s not going to be the same, is it?” Woosnam opines. “I guess they just feel like they have got to hold it. They just don’t want to miss out on a tournament.
“Also, you’ve got to try and think about people watching golf on the TV. It’s like watching football.
“Everybody wants to do something live but at least we can turn on the TV and watch it and see how they get on.”
That’s not just figurative as far as Woosnam is concerned. Winning the Masters gives you a lifetime ticket inside the Magnolia Lane gates but Covid-19 has turned everything on its head.
There will be an empty seat at the Champion’s Dinner table when Tiger Woods serves up his fifth feast.
62-year-old Woosnam, who stopped playing the tournament last year, bringing to an end a sequence of 31 events and seven top 25s, won’t be making the journey.
“I’m going to give it a miss,” he explains. “Next year, if things calm down I will be there. Just to go over for the dinner, it seems a long way to go. I’m high risk, I shouldn’t be going anywhere really.”
Perhaps the biggest question leading into the tournament surrounds how the course is going to play.
The Masters has only ever been held in spring, and the vagaries of a southern autumn will pose a never before experienced test.
Woosnam, though, doesn’t think we’ll see a course that looks markedly different from the image that projects into our living rooms and marks the start of the golfing year in the first week of April.
“Aesthetically, it’s not going to be much different. The weather can be very similar, maybe just a little colder.
“When you are coming out of March into April, you can get that cold streak going through there and it can play really long.
“And so, November, coming off summer and it’s just fading off. It could be similar and just a little bit colder. It will play a little bit longer.”
- Related: Woosnam: From teenage prodigy to Masters champion
- Related: The best Welsh golfers of all time
Woosnam, a course designer himself, continues to be in awe of the layout Dr Alister MacKenzie created, with Bobby Jones, nearly 90 years ago – believing it poses the ultimate test for the world’s best.
“It’s made for really top players and you have to get the ball in the right positions,” he concludes.
“The pin positions, the way the greens slope, it is somewhere where you really have to be superbly in control of your golf game.”
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Ian Woosnam was speaking at the inaugural Welcome To Yorkshire Senior Golf Classic at Ilkley.