Bring back the roars: The patrons return to the Masters

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Patrons walk by the main scoreboard during a practice day for the Masters golf tournament on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Dustin Johnson didn’t feel like his Masters victory was less significant last fall because no fans were at Augusta National to see his win and celebrate with him.

That said, he pays them the ultimate compliment: In his eyes, they make the Masters what it is.

“It’s exciting to have them back,” Johnson said.

Welcome back, patrons. Welcome back, Masters in the springtime. Welcome back, all things at Augusta National that bloom this time of year and provide the backdrop for perhaps the most picturesque locale in golf.

There are new rules — masks must be worn, social distancing policies apply and there’s no eating or drinking around the roped-off spots closest to the greens — but after a one-year pandemic-caused absence, fans are back at the Masters.

“You can see it in my face,” world No. 4-ranked player Collin Morikawa said as he broke into a big smile when asked about the return of patrons. “We love it. I really miss it. It was great to see fans slowly come back over the past month, month and a half. And I know everyone, the Masters, the PGA Tour is doing their job to stay safe and make sure we are still handling everything properly.

“It’s definitely going to line some fairways differently, which is, I think, actually going to be nice,” he added. “So, we missed it, and we’re truly happy they are back.”

The club is allowing limited spectators, a number believed to be around 8,000. It will be the first major to allow spectators since the pandemic began, and what’s always a tough ticket got even tougher this year because of the smaller number of permitted attendees.