Monday at the Masters: Why it’s one of the best days of the year

The wait is over, a website’s headline declares. And that’s true: Masters week is finally here.

And yet, the wait has just begun in describing the start of the week that leads to the year’s first major golf championship.

Forget the paradox and give in to the reality: Monday at the Masters is one of the best days of the year.

For the players whose skills make spending the first full week in April an automatic part of their schedule and the fans who have made this trek before, this is a time to renew acquaintances with an old friend.

“Coming back to Augusta, I mean, it never gets old,” 2021 champion Hideki Matsuyama said.

For those who qualified for the Masters for the first time — there are 20 newcomers in the 2024 field — and fans who hit the jackpot in the practice-round ticket lottery, this is a step into a golfing paradise.

Left behind are the Washington Road signs that advertise a parking spot for $50 or an opportunity to spend time with John Daly. Instead, a dream world awaits.

The pace on Monday at the Masters is leisurely. No Monday blues here. There’s no schedule, and players pick and choose their preparation. Do they focus on their putting, play nine holes with emphasis on expected pin placements or work on their short games?

Recreational golfers in search of ways to improve putting? Xander Schauffele uses one method, working on the main putting green with a string, some tees and a putting plate. Over on the green near the practice tee, Danny Willett pulls out alignment rods to hone his stroke.

What you see is what you get. Early birds could have caught up with Tiger Woods and Will Zalatoris in a pairing of guys with a history of back problems. Around noon, Tommy Fleetwood waited on the first green for Dustin Johnson and Grayson Murray to catch up and form a threesome.

Still, the grandstands and patrons’ chairs surrounding greens are mostly empty. People are on the move, and Scottie Scheffler drew a mobile gallery off the 10th tee.

Or maybe they’re in the main golf shop. The lines are long and UPS trailers for 18-wheelers are backed up to the building in preparation to send logoed souvenirs on their way.

Meet Zack, who says he’s from Upstate New York. He’s loaded down with a cap, shirts, sleeves of golf balls and who knows what else.

“My first time,” he says. “Probably spent too much, but I might never get back.”

Patience is rewarded for those waiting in the near-empty stands alongside the 17th green. Scheffler makes his way through with amateur Stewart Hagestad, and then comes Schauffele.

Indeed, this will be a place to be on Sunday with the title at stake. The 17th green is maybe 10 yards away. The 18th tee is over to the left and the 15th fairway is straight ahead. Look to the right and there’s a giant scoreboard and, from some seats, a view of the eighth tee.

But be warned; a hard-hat is sometimes useful. Remember Tony Finau overcooking his approach on 17 last year and sending his ball into the crowd?

Perhaps Zalatoris provided the best news from Monday.

Woods “played great today. He out-drove me a couple of time, so there was some chirping going on,” he said. “... He looks great. He’s moving as well as he can be. Again, with everything he’s gone through, it’s pretty amazing to see how good he’s swinging it.”

That’s sweet music to golf aficionados and stirs the pot of anticipation of what awaits beginning Thursday. Then Zalatoris talked of a “super windy” weather forecast for Friday, conditions that golfers hate and whets the appetite for more speculation.

So, the wait is over, yet the wait is just beginning — a combination that makes Monday at the Masters one of the best days of any year.

TV, streaming schedule for the Masters

  • Thursday: 3-7:30 pm (ESPN)

  • Friday: 3-7:30 pm (ESPN)

  • Saturday: 3-7 pm (CBS)

  • Sunday: 2-7 pm (CBS)

Streaming at starts mid- to late mornings daily