There are plenty of differences this year at Augusta National, from no patrons on the property to a first-ever November edition. This week, Masters Tournament officials also announced one more change. Starting this year, the 36-hole cut will include the top 50 players and ties but not players within 10 strokes of the lead. The 10-shot rule was introduced in 1962 and endured in 2013 when the cut went from the top 44 players and ties to the top 50 along with anyone within 10 strokes of the lead. Because of the move to November and daylight considerations, officials are starting players off the first and 10th tees for Rounds 1 and 2. Whether the removal of the 10-shot rule is because of those fall daylight limitations is unclear. So if you were planning an each-way bet, be advised.

Players Comments on the Course Condition

A soft dew coated the first fairway as Augusta native Charles Howell III teed off at 9:10 a.m. to begin Monday’s practice round. Howell played driver, then laid up with a six-iron before salvaging par. Then, as Howell neared the third tee box, he peered back upon the second fairway.

“Looks a little different,” Howell said.

The second hole, affectionately called Pink Dogwood, is absent of pink, and the 16th, Redbud, has minimal red. Hole No. 13, called Azalea, has seen its namesake maintain a state of dormancy. The picturesque 510-yard par 5 now presents an autumn canvas of dogwoods, pines and maple trees, which shake their leaves when the Georgia wind deems necessary. Throughout the course, nandina, pampas and camellia plants have been called upon by the nursery team at Augusta National Golf Club to offer fall colors.

“In all honesty, I think it’s equally as stunning,” Howell said. “I can’t say enough about what Augusta National has done to make this possible.”

Not every player was aware of the change of scenery. Phil Mickelson played the second nine on Monday morning too with Cameron Champ, and mentioned a number of changes, including the back-left corner of the 18th green having a more substantial slope. One thing that the three-time Masters winner failed to notice was the fall colors.

“I just look at the hole,” Mickelson said. “I really don’t notice colors behind the (thirteenth) green.”

In addition to the absence of tournament patrons, the November Masters is also without grandstands and gallery ropes. As for concessions, three stands — one at the first, third and eighth holes — are open, offering complimentary snacks to those in attendance.

“It’s a huge difference without patrons,” Howell said. “I feel terrible for them — I really do. But at the end of the day, this is better than no Masters at all.”

Image credit: Getty Images

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