Masters 2020: Watch as Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player hit ceremonial tee shots without patrons for first time

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — The 84th Masters started in the dark on Thursday morning. Because tee times were set for 7 a.m. ET with sunrise was only a few minutes before that, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player congregated at the first tee to little fanfare and even less daylight.

Nicklaus and Player have never teed off in front of fewer individuals to start any Masters. Those in attendance included Augusta National members, a handful of guests, volunteers and those in the media who woke up early enough to make it to the festivities.

A light drizzle fell off and on throughout the morning, and the darkness caused the club to push tee times back 10 minutes before the first round was suspended completely due to inclement weather that looks like it could wash out the entire morning.

Nicklaus and Player were still lively throughout. Player told jokes, and Nicklaus asked those who were there to spread out at the front of the tee, lest he lose one to the right or the left. In those ways, the ceremonial tee shots felt like every other year. There was a normalizing effect they had on those in attendance even if the scene — rainy, dark and dreary — was emblematic of this entire year.

Though this year’s Masters is going to be odd, there are still moments that will feel quite normal and rhythmic. Maybe not a ton of them, but this was definitely one.

The group watching dispersed a few seconds after Nicklaus hit his drive, and the golf course swallowed up this crowd, a fraction of the size it normally is at this time of the week. As we all walked to wherever we were going next, it was nice to hear Augusta National chairman, Fred Ridley, pronounce — after 19 long months of waiting — that the 2020 Masters is underway.

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