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Golf fans, spring blooms return for 2021 Masters Tournament

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Golf fans, spring blooms return for 2021 Masters Tournament
Dustin Johnson hits during a practice round Tuesday before the start of the 2021 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., two days ahead of the first round. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

April 7 (UPI) -- Flowers and fans return to flank fairways this week at Augusta National Golf Club for the 2021 Masters Tournament. An 88-player field will battle for the Green Jacket at the major, which was postponed in 2020 due to COVID-19.

The four-day tournament starts Thursday in Augusta, Ga. World No. 1 and defending Masters champion Dustin Johnson and No. 2 Justin Thomas are among the betting favorites to win.

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The top 50 scorers through two rounds will qualify for Saturday's third round. The tournament airs on ESPN and CBS.

"I love this golf course," Thomas told reporters Tuesday. "I feel like it's a place where I'm going to win at some point, at least I hope. I feel like I could do it multiple times.

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"There is only one person that wins at the end of every week. I just need to keep working until if and when it's my time."

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Eighteen former Masters champions are featured in the field. Four qualifiers are multiple-time Masters champions. Tiger Woods, who has five Masters titles, will not participate due to the injuries he sustained in a February car crash.

"He is bummed he is not here playing practice rounds with us," Thomas said of Woods. "We hate it, too. I'm very lucky that I got thrown into a practice round group with Tiger and Fred Couples the last four years.

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"I followed them around like a puppy dog. Where they'd go, that's where I'd go after."

Golfers competed for a $11.5 million prize purse, with a winner's share of $2.07 million, at the 2020 Masters. This year's purse will be announced Saturday.

World No. 38 Jordan Spieth, No. 3 Jon Rahm, No. 5 Bryson DeChambeau, No. 12 Rory McIlroy, No. 6 Xander Schauffele, No. 10 Patrick Cantlay, No. 11 Brooks Koepka and No. 7 Patrick Reed also are among the top contenders.

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"Augusta National doesn't just test your driving. It tests your second shots, third shots, the putt you try to make for par," DeChambeau told reporters Tuesday. "That's what is so special about here. You have to have every facet of your game working really well."

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Spieth hasn't won the Masters since 2015, but he ended an 82-tournament drought when he won Sunday's Valero Texas Open for his first title since 2017.

"It's a good feeling when you arrive in form here," Spieth told reporters Monday in Augusta. "I've had that a few times. ... I love being here and on the grounds. This is my favorite tournament in the world."

Johnson, the 2020 FedEx Cup champion, won last year's Masters by five strokes and fired a record 20-under par through 72 holes. Thomas has never finished better than fourth at the Masters.

Fans return

Last year's tournament, which was moved from April to November due to the pandemic, was a unique occurrence for viewers.

The Masters, known for brilliant blooms, pristine green lawns and crowded galleries, instead featured fall foliage and an eerily quiet background for competitors as fans weren't allowed to attend.

Crowd roars still won't be as loud as in past years because attendance will be limited. In past years, about 40,000 people attended the four-day event on the 7,475-yard course. Course officials wouldn't say what the cap will be this year, but the galleries are certain to be smaller.

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Fans must wear masks at this year's tournament. Course officials had planned to require fans to submit proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test before they would be admitted to the grounds, but have eliminated that requirement.

Notable groups, tee times

First- and second-round tee times and groups were announced Tuesday. Golf legends Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Elder will tee off as honorary starters at 7:45 a.m. EDT Thursday. Michael Thompson and Hudson Swafford are in the first group and will tee off at 8 a.m.

Koepka, two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and Viktor Hovland will tee off at 10:06 a.m. Dustin Johnson will tee off with Lee Westwood and Tyler Strafaci at 10:30 a.m.

Rahm, McIlroy and Schauffele will tee off at 10:42 a.m.; Adam Scott, Max Homa and DeChambeau at 1:36 p.m.; Justin Thomas, Tony Finau and Louis Oosthuizen at 1:48 p.m. Spieth, Cameron Smith and Collin Morikawa have the final tee time of the first round at 2 p.m.

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How to watch

All times EDT

Thursday: Round 1

Live stream on CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App and Paramount+: Featured groups from 9:15 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Amen Corner from 10:45 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Holes 15 and 16 from 11:45 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Holes 4, 5 and 6 from 9:25 a.m. to 6:45 p.m.

TV: From 3 to 7:30 p.m. on ESPN

Friday: Round 2

Live stream on CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App and Paramount+: Featured groups from 9:15 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Amen Corner from 10:45 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Holes 15 and 16 from 11:45 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Holes 4, 5 and 6 from 9:25 a.m. to 6:45 p.m.

TV: From 3 to 7:30 p.m. on ESPN

Saturday: Round 3

Live stream on CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App and Paramount+: Featured groups from 10:15 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Amen Corner from 11:45 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Holes 15 and 16 from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m.; Holes 4, 5 and 6 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

TV: From 3 to 7 p.m. on CBS

Sunday: Round 4

Live stream on CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App and Paramount+: Featured groups from 10:15 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Amen Corner from 11:45 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Holes 15 and 16 from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m.; Holes 4, 5 and 6 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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TV: From 2 to 7 p.m. on CBS

Moments from the 2021 Masters Tournament

Last year's Masters champion, Dustin Johnson (L), bumps fists with 2021 champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan after the final round of the 2021 Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., on Sunday. Matsuyama won his first major at10 under par. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

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